Semana Santa, that mental festival where everyone dresses up in funny cloaks and pointy hats and scares all the non-religious people out of the city, has come round again.
I’ve got mixed feelings about it this year. I was all up for doing my procession, or penitence, but things haven’t worked out. I’ve participated in the Cristo de Burgos for the last 6 years (yes, I wear a cloak and a funny pointy hat) apart from one year when I flew back to Blighty just after my son was born. So, unfortunately, because I’m quite proud of wearing my cloak and pointy hat, I won’t be participating. My suegro (father-in-law) has had a bad leg for a while and my cuñao (brother-in-law) is working in Malaga and can’t get the time off.
If I had more balls, then I’d do it on my own. For at least 6 hours of it I am, technically, alone, apart from the 500 or so other Nazarenos. But going to the church alone, being inside alone, and leaning against the pillars when we return to the church in San Pedro to relieve the severe back pain on my own, just seems too much.
Being part of a 3 century year old procession is an honour too. I don’t know of any other guiris actually in one, so if you are then get in touch. Most expats and teachers I know are not all that up for it and most try to get away for the week and escape the scariness.
If I wasn’t living out in the sticks I’d probably just do it. But it’s the whole journey of going from here (Mairena, about 10km away) on the metro with all my gear (I carry the cloak and pointy hat, even though I thought I was going to wear it last year, until I realised no other Nazareno was dressed up on the metro). Plus I have to get a cab home after too, so I won’t arrive until about 3am. And knowing that my son has a habit of running in with whatever his latest favourite toy is and smashing me on the conker with it, has swayed my decision to give it a miss this year.
Deep down I’m pretty gutted, but I can still enjoy the festival. I love Semana Santa though: the atmosphere, the music, the jamón, beers, smell of incense, bumping into my students and feeling popular, the goosebumps, and the special memories I have.
While watching processions I spend most of my time reminiscing. I think back to when I first got to know my wife properly during my first Holy Week, and starting to know her family too. Also one year my Dad was over for it, and another year my mum too when my daughter was born, so each procession that I’ve seen always holds special memories.
At least I’ll be in form for the Madrugada though. I’m often knackered after doing the procession on the Wednesday, but this year I’ve been given permission to go and watch the most spectacular part on Thursday night through to Friday morning. Once the kids are wrapped up in bed I’ll be out and about, probably to see El Silencio, El Gran Poder, and if I can Los Gitanos, which are my 3 favourites. My plan is to come home, have a kip, and then go back again; this time with my wife and kids, to catch one or two in the morning, but as most things in life now, it’s not as easy with kids.
Take yesterday for example. Domingo Ramos. Every year that we lived in the centre, it was a doddle. We met up with family for lunch, then went out and saw a few processions, but now it’s a whole different ball game. Firstly it took us 2 hours to get ready. Then we had to get the metro in, with our packed lunches, bags, and the pram. On the metro we had to fold up the pram to make room for the thousand other prams (when I was kid free I always used to curse the people with prams, but now I totally get it; you try carrying a 18kg son about all day).
It was actually less busy than I thought it would be. I was expecting to get mobbed, squashed into the corner with my kids screaming, but we had a seat and getting off wasn’t too bad, just a minute extra in the queue at the other side.
Seeing the processions for the first real time with my son was special. It was tricky to explain the concept of Semana Santa to him though. There’s no way a 3 year old would understand the concept of a weekly procession to remember what Jesus did. In fact, when I first watched processions on the tele, he came up with a tricky question.
“This is Semana Santa,” I said as a Virgen came out the church hiding behind some candles.
“Papi,” he said (a name which I hate him calling me).
“But where’s Santa?”
He stumped me. It was a great question and one that had never even crossed my mind before. All I could come up with was.
“Because that night in Christmas took it right out of him, so he’s still tired.”
Pure innocence. He was fascinated by the drums though, and spent the next 2 days asking when we were going to see the drums.
When we finally turned up to watch La Paz, round by the Parque Maria Luisa, he was blown away by the bands. The look on his face of pure joy as the drums went passed did clog up my throat a little. In my first Semana Santa the music had moved me rather than the actual pasos. Seeing his little face lit up was a dream.
That was at about 2pm, and it was heating up, so after a break back at the in-laws gaff, we set off again to see La Estrella.
Stupidly we picked one of the longest processions of the day, and arrived just as the Cruz de Guia (the first main cross) got over the bridge. So we had to watch the whole thing. Well, we didn’t have to, but my son was then all set on getting as many sweets as possible from the Nazarenos, and my daughter was hell bent on organising them in her own special way in the pram. So we stayed, on the bridge, hot, sweaty, tired, for about an hour.
It was worth the wait though. Just as the Christ got to the end of the bridge it stopped, then the band played some lovely music as it continued down towards the city. I must have had about 5 or 6 sets of goosebumps as it went along, mainly because I was there now with my son on my shoulders and my wife holding our daughter. It was a lovely moment, and one that I knew we wouldn’t beat today, which is why we didn’t bother to go into the centre and just chilled at home and went to the park up the road (a massive bonus of living out of the centre during Semana Santa; you can chose when you see it, not the other way round).
The worst part of the day was getting back. Walking from el Puente de Triana and up to Plaza Cuba carrying my daughter in the 30 degree was a penitence in itself, the only consolation was that she did give me several kisses- without me asking. For the trip home on the metro my son began to question about Semana Santa though.
“Where was Santa?”
“He was tired mate.”
“Because he probably spent the afternoon watching pasos, and that just wears you out.”
“Okay. Can we see the drums again tomorrow?”
“If you’re a good boy.”