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The One and Only Semana Santa Marinera of Valencia

What is a Semana Santa?

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Valencia, SpainSemana Santa is a celebration of Easter - the death and resurrection of Christ. It usually starts with Palm Sunday - the commemoration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, then comes the Holy Week itself, ending with Good Friday and Easter Sunday (the Resurrection), followed by a week of Pascua - Easter holiday.

Although Spain is famous for sticking to its Catholic traditions with noise and colour, the full celebration of Semana Santa is actually a rare ritual. By far not all Catholic regions in the world celebrate it at full scope. In Spain only, many large cities will have a day off and a church mass, nothing else. If you find yourself a Semana Santa celebration, don't take it for granted. Especially in Valencia...

What is unique about Semana Santa in Valencia?

If you search the net for Valencian Semana Santa, you won't find much. It is still an undiscovered fiesta. Yet, it is a unique and a picturesque celebration that deserves fame.

Not that many places in the world celebrate the Holy Week at full scope. And each of these places have their own beautiful traditions. None of them are better or worse than others, but some of them are the same. Here, in Valencia, you will see things you will not see anywhere else in the world. And this is true of many other places where Semana Santa is celebrated.

Valencia itself doesn't celebrate Semana Santa, apart from taking holidays. But Valencia has its maritime district - Grao and Cabanyal. Only 150-100 years ago it was a separate town, beginning to get absorbed into Valencia. As a force of reaction, the town people united around their tradition of Semana Santa to resist losing their identity. These days, the majorly celebrated Semana Santa is still a focal point for the cultural identity of the maritime district. It is a blend of a religious tradition and a political movement.

For this reason Semana Santa in Valencia is called Semana Santa Marinera.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Valencia, SpainLighter atmosphere
While Spain is famous for its solemn, tragic, heavily religious celebrations of the Semana Santa, Valencia offers a breath of lightness. While the Passions are celebrated with the same respect as everywhere else, the maritime district is buzzing with festive atmosphere for the whole two weeks. The streets are full of people socializing over the event - music bands, members of brotherhoods, residents, all effortlessly bringing a touch of carnival into religion.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Valencia, SpainVariety of Costumes
Semana Santa celebrations are organised by Catholic parishes, who often have their Brotherhoods of Semana Santa. These Brotherhoods usually dedicate themselves to commemorating one aspect of Passion of Christ - such as the flogging, the judgement, the crucifixion or the burial. Throughout Spain, all of the Brotherhoods in one location have one, maybe two, costume for all to wear on the celebrations.

In Valencia, there are 28 Brotherhoods who each have their own costume, standard, and sculpture of Christ's Passion. Such variety of Brotherhoods and colours is unknown anywhere else in Spain. It is said to be the most colourful celebration of Semana Santa in Spain.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Valencia, SpainUnique Brotherhoods
While most of the Brotherhoods wear the usual high-hat uniform, Valencia also has types Brotherhoods that you will not see in any other Semana Santa procession in Spain. These are the three Brotherhoods of Grenadiers (collectively called "armed brotherhoods"). You can read more about them in Gallery of the Uniforms of the Brotherhoods page.

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