Semana Santa (Holy Week) and 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.
Solemn festivities begin on Palm Sunday. This day is marked with a procession of people holding palm leaves. It's done in memory of the greeting Jesus received on his entry to Jerusalem, a week before his death. In Barcelona, boys and girls receive the elaborate 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 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 there are usually lots of activities. Just don't confuse it for the Sagrada Família, as it's not a cathedral but a Basilica.
Generally, Semana Santa in Barcelona is quite moderate in comparison to other places in Spain like the region of Andalusia. Numerous towns across Catalunya host Holy Week processions. For the utmost experience, you should visit the nearby town of L’Hospitalet. In the 1960s, it became home to many people who came to Barcelona from the southern region looking for work. Soon, they introduced their native traditions to the neighbourhood.
Easter Sunday is the day of festive masses and more religious processions with the centre 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. Traditional mona was round and contained hard boiled eggs. The number of eggs could vary from 2 to 12 representing the age of a child. At 12 local kids traditionally have the first communion.
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 coloured goose feathers. However, Mona isn't necessarily to be sweet. Alternatively, it could be baked with some cured meats or other savoury 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.
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 designed especially for Easter Day. Easter Saturday is not a public holiday, but be prepared for crowds of tourists.