Holy Week procession in Santa Cruz de la Palma: hooded men
A lot of people on La Palma take Holy Week very seriously. The bigger churches hold solemn processions, which look very exotic to my English eyes.

They take various heavy statues along the street, and some of these statues are beautiful works of art from the 16th century. But the bit that grabs visitors’ attention is the costumes. They remind me of the Klu Klux Klan. This is unfair, because the costumes concerned are far older than the KKK. They ensure anonymity, but it’s not to avoid prosecution; it’s to stop onlookers admiring your piety.

They celebrate the resurrection (the Aleluya) with joy. Many churches hold a midnight mass on Saturday night (the misa del gallo – literally, the mass of the cockerel). The last time I went to one, they gradually tuned the lights out, until by 11:58 there was only one candle lit in the whole church, and just the priest talking. When midnight struck, all the lights came on, the music played, and party balloons appeared from somewhere-or-other and got batted around the congregation. It was marvellous.

In Tijarafe, they start the midnight service with a black cloth covering the magnificent baroque altarpiece. At midnight, the cloth falls, the bells ring, and a group of people come in with drums, and throw flower petals all over the church and congregation. (I’d really like to see this, but I can’t face the drive back.)

Easter Sunday is full of happy processions. In Tijarafe, they have two. One with the statue of Jesus and one with the Holy omen, the Virgin Mary, and St John. St John gets ahead of the women, meets Jesus, bows three times, and runs back to tell Mary that her son is alive. (If this statue is as heavy as most of them then the men carrying it must be fit.) Mary goes to meet her son, and they all go back to the church together.

When the priest in San Andres leaves the church after the Sunday mass he gets pelted with flowers.

Today it’s raining steadily. I hope it stops by tomorrow morning, or they’ll have to cancel a lot of the processions.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this! Those red outfits were pretty scarey until you explained!

    My sister & daughter & I went to Easter Sunday morning service at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Ottawa this morning. Different yet familiar all the same.

    Happy Easter!

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