Try as I might the only statement I can ever give in response to many religious festivals here is simply “I don´t get it”. Never more so than at Easter, when Spain seems to take a step up and really push the whole thing to its limits.
I try and be respectful of the beliefs of others but really I watch these processions with an amazement almost bordering on horror. The constant re-enactments of Jesus upon the cross, the men walking up the streets beating themselves with sticks and whips smeared in red paint as fake blood… Then there are the onlookers, the men and women brought to their knees, sobbing, literally sobbing as the statues of Mary or Jesus pass them by. They line the streets, every single year, just to touch the statue, to cry and lament, and scream various tributes “guapa” as she (Mary) passes them by.
I read an article a few days ago entitled “Faith and Fanaticism: Religious Fervor in Early Modern Spain”. Early Modern? You don´t need to look back at Spain´s history to see religious fervor, just walk into any main street during a major religious holiday today!
I wonder, atheism aside, if it is perhaps that I originate from a more reserved culture. Even the deeply religious in the UK do not exercise this level fervor. There is no wailing, lamenting, sobbing or screaming at any of our festivals – behaviour which, even loving Spain like I do, really does make me feel more apart than ever.
Try as I might I simply do not get it.
I do not understand why a statue of Mary will reduce the young Spanish women of today to tears or why grown men will either dress in robes or fake punishment as a sign of their penance.
This Spain, however much I try, I will never comprehend. A part of time really looks forward to the finish of yet another religious holiday. Maybe I can retire to bed for a few days.