by Victor Sesma
Victor Sesma is an Alicantinian living in London. He is a Software Engineer who likes writing about the city he was born.
Easter is a celebration of religious heritage celebrated in most of the traditionally Christian countries. Alicante‘s traditions of Semana Santa have been deeply rooted in the population for centuries.
Alicante’s Easter week sees processions with people dressed in religious attire, carrying Easter floats and brass bands playing traditional religious music. Unlike other places, Easter in Spain focuses on The Passion of Christ rather than the Resurrection.
The Holly Week in Alicante can be intense and alien at the same time. Nowadays Spanish society is not especially religious but some of the traditions during Easter are widely celebrated.
Alicante is worth visiting during easter. March and April are already warm months in Alicante so it is a perfect city break to enjoy the beaches (with life-guards services active), the sun, the food and Easter traditions in Alicante, such as the easter parades.
Easter is a good time to visit Alicante as it doesn’t get as busy as in summer but the vibe is already summery.
Easter dates change every year and it is based on astronomy. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday right after the first astronomic full moon on the March equinox (when days start to be longer in the northern hemisphere than in the south).
The Spanish commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ -the period and events that happened before Jesus’ death- so the important dates to annotate are from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday -the time when most of the events in Alicante will happen-.
In Spain, the only national bank holiday during Easter is on Good Friday but many regions add some more extra holidays. In Alicante, Easter Monday is a regional bank holiday too. Schools have a few more days of holidays around Easter.
Here are the Holly Week dates for the next few years:
|Year||Palm Sunday||Good Friday||Resurrection Sunday||Easter Monday|
|2024||24th March||30th March||31st March||1st April|
|2025||13th April||19th April||20th April||21 April|
|2026||29th March||4th April||5th April||6th April|
|2027||21st March||27th March||28th March||29th March|
|2028||9th April||15th April||16th April||17th April|
|2029||25th March||31st March||1st April||2nd April|
|2030||14th April||20th April||21st April||22nd April|
The best Easter Parades to watch in Alicante are:
More information about all of this is below.
The Spanish tradition at Easter is to commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ, the period and events that happened before Jesu’s death. As you know, Easter traditions in other countries are around the resurrection -and not the death- of Jesus Christ.
The events taking place during Holly Week are mainly parades with icons, dresses and music commemorating the events before the death and the resurrection. The vibe is somehow solemn.
Counterintuitively, many people seeing the processions or even participating in the parades are not especially religious and maybe they have not even been in church in years. It is arguably safe to say that Easter in Spain is not about religion as much as it is about following traditions.
The main events happening during the holly week are the parades.
There are many parades organised by cofradías or hermandades which we can translate as church brotherhoods.
Each church brotherhoods organise a procession on a different day during the Holly Week and each day can have more than one procession happening.
The procession usually starts from a church and all of them must parade from their church to some of the streets in the city centre as per City’s Hall mandate. The tour all brotherhoods must parade is called carrera oficial which we can translate to the official route.
Usually, Alicante’s carrera official is La Rambla Street so it is the place to see absolutely all the parades if that’s your intention.
The Easter processions are formed of 4 main elements:
Most of the time, each brotherhood has two floats, one featuring an image of Christ -normally at the crucifixion- and another with the image of the Virgin Mary but some of the parades may have different or more floats.
The people carrying the floats are called costaleros. Sometimes -and depending on the brotherhood-, the Virgin Mary float is carried by only women crew and the Christ by only men. This is true only sometimes as most of the time the costaleros are women or men indistinctively. There are also lighter floats for children and teenagers.
The Brass Bands usually play religious music. They are professional musicians making money per parade. Usually, the musicians are somehow stable in one Brass Band and they sometimes travel around different cities to fill up the demand for bands during easter.
Between floats, the nazarenos parade in different formations. They usually carry different stuff. Sometimes it is sweets for the children but other times they carry candles, wooden crosses or religious standards.
The manolas have their origin in dictatorial Spain. Women had banned being nazarenos in the parades but still had an essential role in preparing the clothing and decoration of the floats.
Around the XIX century, some of these women were allowed to parade in the processions using traditional clothing used on Sundays to go to church: a black dress, peineta and mantilla. Since then to our days this tradition has been kept despite the fact gender is not used to ban people anymore.
In different places of the processions, there are different representatives. Sometimes they invite “honorific” people such as politicians -like in the photo above where Alicante’s city mayor in 2023, Luis Barcala, is parading too-. Other times they are church representatives or brotherhood directives.
There is much more happening during easter in Alicante.
Parades with huge palm tree leaves prepared for the occasion.
Another interesting tradition are the saetas -a religious song-, more common in Andalucia but a tradition also of some of the parades in Alicante.
Masses are common during easter but they are more popular among the people following the festivity as a Christian tradition rather than a popular celebration.
Called Via Crucis in Spanish, is a commemoration of events that happened on the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. This is also mainly followed among people celebrating the religious Semana Santa rather than the general public.
During Easter Day –Domingo de Resurreción in Spanish- some processions happen during the morning and they parade to Alicante’s city hall.
In Alicante, there is a singular event happening during this parade at the city hall. Thousands of little papers with religious images -called aleluyas– are dropped from the city’s hall balconies to the floats and the public:
Called Lunes de Pascua in Spanish it is an important day where monas are eaten. In Alicante, they are traditional pastry bread with a boiled egg on it. In other Spanish regions, monas are different.
A common Alicantinian tradition during Easter Monday is to meet your friends and family for a short trip nearby the sea or in the mountains where to have lunch together in nature.
For many families, the tradition mandates squashing the boiled egg in someone else’s head in order to break the eggshell and to be able to peel it. Funny fights happen this day in all families.
Something to note is that many cofradias‘ attires include a capirote -a hood with a conic shape and holes in the eyes-. It can remind certain sects in other countries. The Easter traditions in Spain are way older than these sects. Semana Santa traditions, including the dressing, originated in the XV century.
All brotherhoods share the same style of attire: hoods, tunics, capirotes, the Manolas dresses, and iconography… But each congregation has different styles and colours, sometimes darker, other times colourful. It is up to each brotherhood tradition how they dress.
Alicante’s Semana Santa starts around the year 1600. The origin took place in a little hermitage in the current Alicante city centre. In this little church, resided Virgen de la Soledad or Virgin of Solitude.
Alicantinians founded in the hermitage a brotherhood called Purísima Sangre de Cristo or Pure Blood of Christ that would parade every Easter Friday in a procession conveniently called Entierro de Cristo or Burial of Christ. There is more about the history of Semana Santa in Alicante on this page (in Spanish).