Semana Santa (Holy Week) & Easter is a vibrant and beautiful season in Barcelona and its surroundings. Celebrations extend over a week of religious ceremonies, masses, and processions that peak on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
Generally, Semana Santa in Barcelona is not as grandiose as in other places in Spain like the region of Andalusia. However, numerous towns across Catalonia host impressive Holy Week processions. For the utmost experience, you should visit the nearby town of L’Hospitalet. In the 1960s, the town became home to many people who came to Barcelona from the southern region looking for work. Soon, they introduced their native traditions to the neighborhood.
Solemn festivities begin on Palm Sunday. This day in Barcelona is marked with a procession of people, carrying palm leaves. It's a homage to the greeting Jesus received on his entry to Jerusalem, a week before his death. In Barcelona, boys and girls get palm leaves from their godparents—boys get the tall "palmónes" and girls receive woven "palmas." Everyone can buy one at the markets around Barcelona Cathedral, near the Sagrada Familia or La Rambla. Traditionally, these palms are blessed by a priest and afterwards stored at home for almost a year till the next-year Lenten season. The old palms are burnt, and the ashes are used by priests to draw a cross on people's foreheads to mark the start of the Lent.
Good Friday is the second big day of the Holy Week. Spanish-style processions feature the members of fraternities and religious societies dressed in long robes with pointed hoods and two holes for eyes. Heavy floats with religious figures are paraded through the streets. Hundreds of devotees follow the procession. The best place to witness Good Friday processions is around Barcelona Cathedral — between 4 and 11 pm. Plenty of activities are planned there during the day. Just don't confuse it for the Sagrada Família, as it's not a cathedral but a Basilica.
Easter Sunday is the day of festive masses and more religious processions with the center of activities located at Barcelona Cathedral. This day brings the end to sorrow and Lent—now it's time for a feast for your soul and body. Mona de Pascua is a perfect dish to celebrate. 'Pascua' stands for Easter in Spanish, whereas 'mona' derived from the Arabic word "munna" meaning a gift. Again, godparents are supposed to present such a gift to their godchildren.
Mona de Pascua
Traditional mona was round and contained hard-boiled eggs. The number of eggs could vary from two to 12, representing the age of a child. At 12 local kids traditionally have the first communion. However, modern monas are more diverse and often feature intricate chocolate decorations, as well as some crème brûlée fillings, cream, or butter. The top of the cake is adorned with decorative elements, including tiny chocolate eggs and chicks, small houses, cartoon characters, and colored goose feathers. However, Mona isn't necessarily to be sweet. Alternatively, it could be baked with some cured meats or other savory products.
Anyone can buy a wondrous Easter cake from the nearest bakery. Some of the most gorgeous chocolate window displays are found in the district of Eixample. According to traditions, Mona de Pascua is given on Easter Sunday but eaten only on the following day, Easter Monday.
Tips on visiting Barcelona during Easter weekend
Those who are visiting Barcelona during Easter weekend must be aware that many businesses are closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Monday. Some of the restaurants will still offer a delicious family lunch, cooked specially for Easter Day. Easter Saturday is not a public holiday. Also, be prepared for crowds of tourists and book your lodgings in advance.