Semana Santa, the Spanish term meaning, “Holy Week” is celebrated in every corner of Spain and therefore, Tenerife. Each place celebrates in its own special way. Day and night, the streets are filled with the beat of the drums as people take an active role in processions, masses of colourful flowers and a great deal of emotion all combining to produce a highly moving atmosphere. For centuries, these festivities have been deeply rooted in popular imagination and inextricably linked with art. This can be seen in the many religious images that are paraded through the streets to be devoutly and respectfully admired by thousands of people.
While Easter week is celebrated in every city, town and village in Spain, some fiestas are especially well known for their uniqueness and beauty.
The Passion of Adeje began in 1999 and has been repeated every year since. It is an event that is special, a beautiful, magical day that defines Adeje’s roots and history.
The event takes place on Calle Grande starting at noon and lasts around an hour and a half. It chronicles the last hours and crucifixion of Christ and it is best to arrive early to get a good vantage point as thousands line the road. More than 25,000 people and a significant number of tourists come from all corners of the island to relive the true story of Easter depicted by this stunning piece of street theatre.
Preparations started months ago with hundreds of costumes being made for the cast of townsfolk. Stages built for the series of tableaux that line the street at intervals ready for the actors to depict scenes leading up to the crucifixion. Lampposts, road signs and balconies draped with red, zebra crossings covered in sawdust and palm leaves, giant screens erected as the local television company gets ready to transmit into homes across the Canary Islands. The whole community building in anticipation of this morning’s events.
From the moment the Roman centurions, some on foot and some on horseback lead the emperor and his wife, carried on thrones, into the street, everyone is spellbound.
The first tableau springs to life with The Last Supper. Key players are wired up with microphones so the crowds can hear the dialogue from speakers all the way down the road. As the story moves on, we see Jesus betrayed, stripped and whipped by guards and forced to pick up the cross and carry it down the street to the point of crucifixion. The power and realism are graphic every cry of pain felt by the sombre silent crowds. The climax draws gasps and a few tears as the cross is raised high and Christ looks down on the crowd below.
Regardless of your religious convictions, there are few sights that can equal the emotion and spectacle of this event even the most cynical, cannot fail to be impressed.
There are two processions in La Laguna and for any Brit seeing the hooded penitents in their long, flowing robes and pointed cowls that hide their identities I bet their first thought is Ku Klux Klan. The outfits do make them appear very sinister but these were traditional long before the KKK adopted them. The other features equally sinister barefooted monks whose ankles and wrists are manacled. The first procession is at 5pm while the Silent Procession, accompanied only by the beat of a drum, leaves the Iglesias de la Concepción at 9pm. Streetlights are turned out in the atmospheric old streets of the city and only torches carried by the procession light the way.
Images courtesy of Ayuntamiento de Adeje
After all that creepy, scary atmosphere, it is time for some traditional Easter food.
Riccia Sfogliatella is layer upon layer of crispy flaky pastry like filo that forms a pocket into which is stuffed a filling of ricotta, semolina, sugar and cinnamon. Terribly fattening and oh so moreish. Torrijas are thick slices of bread, soaked in milk and beaten egg, fried in oil and served with sugar or honey and Leche frita, meaning ‘fried milk’ are eaten
The solemn religious nature of Semana Santa shouldn’t put people off witnessing these unique festivities, come and take part and take away memories that will last forever of an Easter that Tenerife presents in its own unique fashion.