Easter Procession on the Rambla

Easter week in Barcelona and Spain is called 'Semana Santa' ('Setmana Santa' in Catalan) which means 'Holy Week', and starts on Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos/Diumenge de Rams) and ends on Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua/Dilluns de Pasqua).

This time often sees thousands of Barcelona residents leave the city to spend Easter in nearby villages, seaside towns or foreign destinations, a mass exodus locally known as 'Operació sortida' (Operation Exit, one of several that take place at key holiday times during the year).

While not as religious as the south of Spain, Barcelona and some other Catalan towns host the Easter parades for which southern, more Catholic, Spain is famed. These processions in Spain are organised by a cofradia—a brotherhood of lay people, both male and female, with the blessing of the church, and are called pasos meaning steps or passage. The beautifully decorated and adorned Easter floats themselves are also called pasos. The floats have large wooden statues that portray religious scenes, such as Christ carrying the cross or on the cross, the Virgin Mary mourning, and other saints or biblical figures. The pasos are carried by 30-50 porters called costaleros, who carry the heavy pasos on their shoulders. The leader of the bearers, called the capataz, determines the chicotá (break time between a paso being lifted and set down again). The signal to lift or set down the paso is given by the llamador (crier) who knocks on the front of the float. The costaleros don't wear capirotes, tall, pointed hoods, but are often fully masked. There are various robes for brotherhood members. The nazareños wear penitential robes called a nazareño, which are worn with capirotes and they often carry candles. The penitents carry crosses and wear robes with hoods too, though they are not pointed. Two pasos occur in Barcelona centre on Good Friday - at Plaça Sant Agustí (just off the Rambla, by the Liceu Metro stop) and at the Iglesia Sant Jaume (Plaça de Sant Jaume).

Chocolate shops and bakeries fill their windows with particularly fantastic treats, called 'mones', around Easter. Mones are sweet sculptures, often in the shape of an egg, a hen or a popular children's character.

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