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Vocabulary to Know About Semana Santa

Semana Santa, or “Holy Week”, is a significant religious observance celebrated in many Spanish-speaking countries around the world. Understanding the vocabulary associated with Semana Santa is essential for learners of Spanish to fully grasp the customs, traditions, and rituals of this holiday. In addition to having religious and cultural significance, it’s also a time where most schools and businesses have time off. It’s a time for families to get together and have a nice spring break!

Semana Santa religious symbolism

One fundamental aspect of Semana Santa is the religious symbolism embedded in its vocabulary. For example, “procesión” refers to the processions that are central to Semana Santa. These processions often feature elaborate floats, or “pasos,” depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ. For instance, “la Última Cena” refers to the Last Supper, while “la Crucifixión” denotes the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. These events are commemorated through religious services, processions, and reenactments during Holy Week

Another religious symbol you’ll see are los Nazarenos, the Nazarenes. Americans might find their white pointed hoods a bit culturally jarring, but rest assured that there is no connected between this religious symbol and US history. The hoods called are worn by the cofradía, the group that participates in the procession. They can wear any color of hoods, and wear them to represent anonymity to others while practicing penance.

Traditional foods

Traditional foods are also an essential part of Semana Santa, with certain dishes enjoyed during this time of year. For example, “torrijas” are a popular dessert often consumed during Semana Santa. Torrijas are often considered Spanish-style French Toast. This tasty treat gained popularity during Semana Santa because people had so much extra bread and eggs from Lent, a time when they didn’t eat meat.

Other traditional foods include “bacalao” (codfish), which also became popular due to the lack of meat during Lent. In addition, “potaje” (a thick stew), and “buñuelos” (fried dough balls) are common foods to see during this time.

Celebrations may vary

In addition to religious terminology, learners of Spanish may encounter regional variations in Semana Santa vocabulary. Different countries and even different regions within the same country may have unique customs and traditions associated with Semana Santa, leading to variations in vocabulary usage.

For example, Andalucía has a huge reputation for Semana Santa celebrations. Visitors from all over the world flock to Sevilla and other Andalusian cities to see the world-famous processions. However, other areas in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries will all have different traditions based on their specific histories.

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