Although Holy Week in Barcelona may not be as grand as those in the south of Spain there are still many things to see and many traditions to enjoy in the city. There are two main hermandades y cofradias (religious brotherhoods) which organize processions through Barcelona on the Easter weekend. Each procession starts from their parish church, passes in front of Barcelona Cathedral and returns to their church. The processions not only include the members of the hermandades, but also ornate floats, beautifully decorated representations of either the Virgin Mary or one of the ‘stations of the cross’ which describe the Easter story.
Another important tradition takes place on Easter Monday which is often referred to as Día de la Mona de Pascua. On this day it is traditional to have an Easter cake using all the sweet and fatty ingredients that were not eaten during Lent. Nowadays the cake often has different shapes and themes and many are made out of chocolate. It is traditional for the cake to be given to the children of the family by their Godfather. Funfact: the word mona is thought to come from the Arabic word meaning ‘gift’.
Away from Barcelona many towns and villages hold their own Easter celebrations. Two to highlight are the processions in Tarragona and Verges. In Tarragona, in keeping with its impressive Roman history, the Good Friday procession, called the Holy Burial procession, is led by men dressed as Roman soldiers to recreate the atmosphere of the Biblical story. The soldiers are then followed in the procession by all the hermandades of Tarragona. Another, quite unusual tradition is found in the small town of Verges, to the north of Barcelona. Here, since the Middle Ages, the townspeople have performed the ‘Dance of Death’. This dance is carried out by people dressed as skeletons and those dressed as the Grim Reaper himself playing drums to which the skeletons perform the dance of death. They also carry clocks and a flag to remind us time is short and death can come at any time. The Dansa de la Mort of Verges is one of the last remaining European ‘dances of death’ which were common in the 14th Century as the population had to deal with famine and the Black Death.