Alicante. The sun shine and the anticipation was enormous, as locals and visitors prepared to immerse themeselves in the scenario of Christ entering Jerusalem. The palms were blessed and, with Elche’s brass band heralding the way, the procession of thousands of palms made its way through Elche’s main streets towards the Basilica of Santa Maria, ready for holy mass. Elche’s Glorieta Square was a hive of activity, bars and terraces all complete, yet there we had a perfect view of the procession and were able to marvel at the intricacy of the prize-winning, plaited palms and the strength of the ‘costaleros’, who shouder the heavy statues on floats in the heat of the midday sun. Elche’s park was an amazing oasis later to take a break from the crowded streets and the bar/restaurant, which is owned by the council, but run as a co-operative, has an exceptional number of extremely efficient, bar staff, who appear to be able to serve any number of people incredibly swiftly. Serrano ham and cheese, paellas and roast legs of lamb, all seemed to appear within minutes of arrival.
As well as the Palm Sunday procession, there are processions every night this week to celebrate Holy Week. Most of these involve ‘capiruchos’, wearers of the cone-shaped, pointed hat, mask and gown, which characterize these evening, penitencial processions and date back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The idea is that the brotherhoods and those doing penance, would not be recognised and so the tradition continues today, giving a rather sombre ambience to these nightly vigils. Again, these processions attract both locals and visitors, thronging the streets until the early hours of the morning. With night-time temperatures reaching 17 degrees this week and daytime tempertaures reaching 32, there is certainly no reason to stay at home.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your viewing before the summer arrives and you could still escape to sunnier climes this year!