Easter in Catalonia: processions, desserts and traffic jams!
'Setmana Santa' -or Holy Week- is one of the country's busiest holiday periods, with processions, cakes, and half a million vehicles on the roads
The arrival of Easter in Catalonia brings with it one of the busiest holiday periods of the year, a highlight of which are the many traditional processions held around the country.
One of the most famous is the Dance of the Death, which is held on Maundy Thursday in the northern town of Verges, near the Costa Brava.
The event in Verges is far from typical, as it features skeletons dancing to the sound of a drum, Roman soldiers -known as the 'Manages'- and a representation of Christ's crucifixion.
However, most religious processions in Catalan towns take place on Good Friday, usually featuring images of the Virgin Mary and the crucified Christ, carried aloft by penitents.
Despite the decline in church attendances and religious observance, Christian customs remain a major feature of Easter celebrations, with another example being passion plays.
These dramatic representations of the Passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering and death, are a big draw in some towns, especially Esparreguera, Olesa, Ulldecona and Cervera.
‘Mona de Pasqua’
Yet, perhaps the star of the Easter period in Catalonia is the ‘Mona de Pasqua’, an Easter cake traditionally gifted to children by their godparents.
The Mona de Pasqua is a decorated sponge cake usually topped with chocolate and figures -often cartoon characters or football stars- that is traditionally eaten on Easter Monday.
The Mona tradition means a busy week for bakers, with around 700,000 of the Easter cakes, which cost between 20 and 200 euros, being sold every year.
With the arrival of milder weather, Easter is also a time when people get away for the long weekend, meaning traffic will be extremely heavy on Catalonia's motorways and roads.
The Catalan police estimate that 345,000 vehicles will leave Barcelona's metro area on Thursday and Friday, with 557,000 returning on Sunday and the early hours of Monday.
To keep accidents to a minimum, the police advise taking extra care on the roads over the weekend, and will deploy 1,666 traffic officers and set up 1,410 checkpoints.