Of all the astonishing Spanish festivals, “La Semana Santa” (Holy Week) has got to be one of the most breathtaking — and worth experiencing. This week-long religious celebration happens annually in the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter.

The festival takes place throughout the week leading up to Easter Sunday. While the exact date changes every year, Semana Santa usually falls in late March and/or early April, with the festivities beginning on Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) and lasting until Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua).

One of the most important components of Semana Santa is the religious processions. Each day of the week, the local brotherhoods parade throughout the city who slowly walk carrying candles, torches, wooden crosses and handing out sweets to the children.

A mesmerizing feature of the processions is the general use of the penitential robe (nazareno) for some participants. Although similar to those of the Ku Klux Klan, they’re completely unrelated. These long robes with pointy hoods (capirote) were widely used in medieval times as a way of the penintents hiding their identity from neighbours and friends

Although the processions are the main part of Semana Santa, this religious festival also encompasses a delightful maze of traditions. One of the things that Spanish people look forward to the most is the torrijas, which is a Spanish-style French toast eaten around Easter time. They consist of bread, dipped in milk and egg, then fried, before being sprinkled in cinnamon sugar or honey.

There are also the famous Easter cakes, or Monas de Pascua, which are typically eaten in the Catalunya and Valencia regions. Coated with candied pieces of fruit and sugar, they can either be ring-shaped, or come in the shape of animals like snakes, lizards, and monkeys.

Another popular sweet treat that’s eaten during Semana Santa is the Bueñelos, which are similar to small doughnuts. They are deep-fried and sprinkled with sugar, and in Valencia, the Bueñelos are made with pumpkin.

All in all, the Easter parades are a magnificent sight, especially in the larger cities. in Seville, for instance, the magnificent processions feature century-old floats, thousands of Nazarenes, and can last up to 12 hours.