The strangest Holy Week traditions of Spain

There are many stranger Holy Week traditions, not only the famous ‘Capirote’. We could also call them curious traditions. During the Holy week, not only processions and religious activities are celebrated, but also there are some unique and odd events which I recommend you to visit at least once in your life. You can find a lot of weird Holy Week traditions in Spain from north to south and from east to west, and you don’t even need to leave the borders of Spain. If you take advantage of a trip to one of these places during the holiday season, you will be pleasantly surprised.

The funeral of Genarín, the accident of a man who died when he was urinating

Procession of Gernarino in León

Procession of Gernarino in León | Wikimedia

The Holy Week in León is a reference throughout the country, especially considering the ‘Procesión de los Borrachos’ (Procession of the Drunks). However, in this case, the death of Genaro is celebrated, a special character from the beginning of the 20th century who has his own legend.

Everything began in 1929, when Genaro, a bohemian, hard-drinking and ladies’ man, was urinating in the street. He was so unlucky that a rubbish truck ran over him in the middle of it, making that terrible accident into a tradition that is now almost 100 years old. Therefore, every Maundy Thursday the people from León celebrate a procession with an amusing figure of Genarín. This Way of the Cross is not focused on suffering, like the more traditional processions, but has a more entertaining character. For example, one of the most curious aspects of the procession is that cheese is eaten and orujo is drunk along the way.

The Turbas, chaotic music which echoes all over Cuenca

Las Turbas in Cuenca

Las Turbas in Cuenca on Maundy Thursday

Cuenca has one of the strangest processions of Holy Week, which is also an Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The processions known as ‘Las Turbas’ were born back in 1616 to the present day. These processions cause so much racket that it is difficult not to wake up when they begin. During the procession of ‘Las Turbas’ a large number of musicians are gathered on the streets of Cuenca. Drums and bugles echo through the streets, playing chaotically and incessantly from 05:30 in the morning.

When the figure of ‘El Caído’ appears, instead of being followed in silence, everything becomes louder and louder. Until the moment when the ‘Virgen de la Soledad’ appears, when all the instruments are in silence. In a certain way, this racket represents the mockery that Jesus received on the ‘Camino del Calvario’ (Calvary’s Road).

La Trencá de perols: letting new things come in

Another of the most curious traditions of these festivities is the ‘Trencá de perols’ in Valencia. In Valencian, a ‘perol’ is the Spanish word for a clay pot, while ‘trencar’ means to break. So that’s basically what this procession is all about: breaking the pot.

The tradition has its roots in an ancient custom in which Christians who celebrated Holy Week were not allowed to take a bath. In the past, the ‘Trencá de perols’ was celebrated with the throwing of water from balconies on Easter Saturday, but over time, the throwing of old crockery and earthenware pots was added to this tradition.

The ‘Trencá de Perols’ in Valencia takes place at the beginning of the Procession of Glory, at midnight on Holy Saturday night, and symbolises the disappearance of the old, the transition to the new.

The Volatín of Tudela, firecrackers and a nude

Another tradition that is about “breaking things” is the ‘Volatín de Tudela’. It is a tradition that began to be practised in this Navarrese town in 1732, although over time it disappeared. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century, in 2002, when the Tudela Town Council revived it and declared it as a Festivity of National Tourist Interest.

The basic idea is to hang a figure on the balcony of the ‘Casa del Reloj’, in the centre of the ‘Plaza de los Fueros’, and throw firecrackers at it until it is completely naked. The act represents the death of Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus Christ’s disciples and the one who betrayed him.

Los Romances de Navaluenga, a battle of verses

The origin of this tradition is not exactly known, but it is undoubtedly one of the most special traditions in the country. In the Romances de Navaluenga, a small town in Ávila, a couple of groups of 25 people have to perfectly recite 14 classic romances written by Lope de Vega and José de Valdivieso. The two groups alternate reciting verses until one of them makes a mistake. This is how, on Maundy Thursday, both groups follow the processions while they recite to the sky.

Romper la Hora (Breaking the Hour), a village to the beat of the drums

People making noise with drums

During two hours Calanda echoes with numerous drums. | Shutterstock

Calanda is a small town in Teruel, but it is internationally known for having one of the strangest Holy Week traditions. Or, at least, one of the noisiest. At 12 o’clock in the morning on Good Friday,

This tradition, according to Luís Buñuel, inspires an indefinable emotion, making the town dance for two hours in unison to the beat of its percussion. It dates back to the year 1127 and it is said that it served to warn the population of the approaching Arab invasion

Los Empalaos of Cáceres, an extremely realistic tradition

Procession of los Empalados in Caceres

Procession of los Empalados in Cáceres | Shutterstock

Holy Week is closely identified with penitence and the suffering of Jesus, so it is not surprising that some of the weirdest traditions of the Holy Week are linked to it. This is the case of the Empalaos, a tradition in Cáceres that almost borders on religious fanaticism. Specifically, it is a tradition of National Tourist Interest which took place in Valverde de la Vera on the 18th of January 1980.

In the Empalaos, a series of men, who will act as penitents, are tied to a wooden ploughshare with multiple ropes, with their torsos uncovered and simulating a cross. The penitent, unable to use his arms, parades in old women’s petticoats, a veil and a crown of thorns. All of this is wrapped in an aura of mystery, anonymity and silence, as those following the penitent are not allowed to speak.

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