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Semana Santa: Vocabulary for Spanish Easter Traditions

By Finn Orfano

Easter, Lent, Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday are important religious holidays in Spain. Learn vocabulary surrounding these holidays and the food and traditions that surround them.

Semana Santa

Lent

Easter is preceded by 40 days of Lent in which many participate in fasting. Here are the words for the most important days:

Semana Santa - Holy Week

Pascua - Easter

Felices Pascuas - Happy Easter

La cuaresma - Lent

Miercoles de ceniza - Ash Wednesday

Jueves Santo - Holy Thursday

Viernes Santo - Good Friday

Domingo de Palmera - Palm Sunday

Ash Wednesday

The entire time up to Easter is marked by religious traditions. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics go to church to repent from their sins and get an ash cross marked on their forehead.

Iglesia - church

Ceniza - ash

cruz - cross

El cura - priest

La vela - candle

Palm Sunday

The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This marks Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem before his death. It is also the occasion when many Catholic children receive their frist communion.

Primera comunion - First communion

On that day and in many regions of Spain, processions take to the street, people carrying palm branches which are often decorated with flowers, bows or tinsel. They also sometimes carry a statue of the Virgin Mary.

La hoja - leaf

La palmera - palm tree

La Dolorosa - Weeping Virgin Mary

Brotherhoods

Throughout Semana Santa, the hundreds of religious brotherhoods which exist in Spain play an important role.

Hermandad - brotherhood

Cofradia - brotherhood

Corporacion - brotherhood

The brotherhood consists of male members of a particular parish. Their purpose is to re-enact a specific theme related to the sufferings of Christ duing their highly emotional processions through the streets of their town at semana santa.

Procesion - procession

According to their chosen theme, they wear specific cloaks and hoods and carry statues of Christ or the Virign Mary. Some, who commemorate the suffering of the Lord during his way to the cross, carry whips or chains and even flay themselves to do penitence.

Flagelar - flog

Cadenas - chains

Capucha - hood

Estandarta - flag

Very well known in the region of Valencia is

La Hermandad de Buena Muerte - Brotherhood of Holy Death

Its members consist exclusivley of retired or active members of the legion (Legion de Honor)

La legion - the legion

La legion is considered as the bravest and toughest part of the Spanish military.

The processions take place at night, accompanied by drums and lighted by torches.

Por la noche - at night

La tombona - drum

La torcha - torches

It is a totally fascinating, solemn and emotional experience, for participants and spectators alike.

Easter Meal

Once Lent or cuaresma is over, a time during which Catholics are not supposed to eat meat and generally fast, it's time for a sumptuous Easter Meal and celebrations.

Ayunar - to fast

Celebrar - to celebrate

As Easter is the ime of year when lambs are born, the traditional main course consists of lamb.

Cordero asado - roasted lamb

Chuleta de cordero - lamb chop

Pierna de cordero - leg of lamb

Costilla de cordeo - rib of lamb

What's for Dinner?

The meat is prepared with lots of garlic and spices.

Ajo - garlic

Cebolla - onion

Salsa - gravy

Vegetables to go with it are mostly green.

Judias verdes - green beans

Espinachas - spinach

Alcachofas - artichokes

Ensalada verde - green salad

Ensalada mixta - mixed tomatoe, lettuce and cucumber salad

Apetizers are often seafood.

Tapas variadas - mixed apetizers

Dessert

Of course, an important meal needs to be rounded off with a delicious desert. Typical for Spain are the following:

el postre - desert

Crema Catalana - a soft lemon flavored custard

Arroz con leche - rice pudding

Flan de huevo - egg pudding

Flan de vanilla - vanille pudding

Drink

All accompanied with copious amounts of red wine.

Vino tinto - red wine

Rioja - best region for red wine

una copa de vino - a glass of wine

un trago - a sip

I hope you get the chance to practice Spanish in Spain and experience a traditional Easter celebration!

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