Category Archives: Fiestas and Holidays

Ya es Navidad: Madrid’s Starting to Look Like Christmas

The happiest and most awaited month of the year has started, and so I deemed it best that my first post for December is light but nonetheless special. Let’s make it filled with lots of pictures of fun and Christmassy colors. Isn’t it obvious that the Yuletide air already pervades around? The season of hope and inspiration is definitely upon us.

Indeed, it is apparent that Madrid is fast turning into a Yuletide paradise; there’s just no stopping establishments from sprucing up their buildings – inside and out – with tons of exciting Xmas displays. Streets, side streets and avenues are one by one being adorned with multi-colored lights. Plazas and gloriettas, big and small, boast of giant, glowing Yuletide trees of yellow, red, and blue.

And so for this post, time again for me to get my phone cam busy and capture photos of Christmas scenes from around the city, where possible.

imageEasily, Puerta del Sol is one of the most crowded spots in Madrid during the holiday season. The famous square’s Xmas tree this year glimmers with its blue lights, instead of yellow from the past few years
imageYuletide decors of life sized and gigantic toys and cartoon characters are displayed in the upper facade of El Corte Ingles

Cibeles, Alcala, Puerta del Sol, Atocha — it’s a given that these neighborhoods are some of the most colorful spots in the city. I expect to have pictures of these places draped in full christmas display, as I alway had in previous years.

Of course, I’ll explore Madrid further — I am only too sure to find more neighborhoods that are suited up, proud that they’re part of this year’s Yuletide revelry.

Here is some initial photos showing how dazzling and enchanting Madrid can be during the Christmas season. I’ll leave this as an open post, which means I will be posting more from time to time, as more places become spruced up for the Yuletide season.

imageInstead of multi-colored lighting, the Palacio de Cibeles is bathe in red this time
imagePlaza Mayor is a venue for many different cultural activities during the Yuletide season. December 1 showcases a night filled with Rumanian festivities at the square
imageBrightly-lit holiday house at Azca, Paseo de Castellana, Madrid
imageMore or less a dozen Christmas tree stand in the plaza in front of Picasso Building
imageimageStores selling traditional Yuletide goodies such as asadas castañas and maize (roasted chestnuts and corn) are found in strategic corners of the city. The store in the first picture above stands in front of the Nuevos Ministerios Metro Entrance, the second is in the corner of Calle de Bravo Murillo and Paseo de la Castellana. Prices of castañas vary from 2 to 3 euros for a dozen.imageKids have a grand time ice skating at Plaza del Colon
imageNeighborhood shops and downtown boutiques have started filling their shelves with holiday merchandize items. The lower part of the collage is a photo of Xmas trees sold at a Chinese variety store, while the upper half shows multicolored decor balls from Tiger, a popular novelty gift shop.
imageYou know Christmas is just around the corner with the sprouting of more flower stands and kiosks around the city, like this one at the corner of Calle del Postigo de San Martin.

imagePlaza Remonta in Bravo Murillo is no Plaza Mayor. It’s like many other typical town squares in Madrid; quiet and dimly lit at night. No matter, this plaza is one with the season by putting up two Christmas trees in its midst — modest but helpful nonetheless in illuminating the place come nighttime, a delight to the kids at play.
imageThe Nativity and other scenes that depict the birth and early years of the Child Jesus, displayed at Parroquia de San Antonio, Bravo Murillo and Cuatro Caminos
imageChristmas trees brightly shine at night as they surround the Artichoke fountain replica at the roundabout or the Glorieta de Atocha

Christmas at Plaza Mayor, MadridBusiness is brisk at the Plaza Mayor, with Christmas lights and decors as best sellers year after year
imageMadrid, Spain, Calle Bailen, carouselCarousels and similar fun rides and attractions are a common sight around the city. The first carousel is found in Plaza de Sta cruz, along Calle Atocha, the second is located at Calle Bailen, near Palacio Real

imageEl Corte Ingles leaves no stone unturned when it comes to the display of Christmas decors. Its branch along Paseo de la Castellana has already begun showing Yulletide theme visual messages in its large electronic display

imageThe red Christmas tree now stands beside the yellow fountain in Paseo de la Castellana and Calle Vitrivio, livening up the area in time for the merry season

imagePlaza de Espana has put up its own Christmas Tree, which stands beside the square’s famous oblong-shaped fountain and near Calle Gran Via

Madrid, Spain, Christmas, Gran ViaGirl pals pose for the camera with their sweet smiles, reindeer antlers headband, red noses, and all.

imageTerrace restaurants install their outdoor heaters to warm  up the cool evening ambiance, like this one near Puerta de Alcala

imageChristmas is in the air, especially in Plaza del Callao where to be found in its midst is an adorable bright-yellow Xmas tree and the Tienda de la Navidad

imagePlaza Callao’s Tienda de Nativid sells Yuletide trees, bells, lights, decors, and everything else that’s Christmas
imageCalle Preciosa spruces up in time for the holidays
imageVarious attractive, Yuletide-themed pastelerias and other sweet goodies are available at La Mallorquina, a popular bakeshoop located in a strategic spot in Plaza del Sol
imageFancy holiday lights dangles along the length of Arenal, providing sufficient illumination as pedestrians traverse through the street, and perhaps towards San Gines Church to hear the evening mass, or even further down to Palacio Real

imageThe city has already installed the holiday lights, which I believe are the same ones for the last couple of years, along Calle de Alcala. In the background is the Palacio del Cibeles
imageIn the same manner as that of the Cibeles Palace, the Ayuntamiento building in Plaza del Sol is also bathe in red, as if to signify the solemnity of the place while still actve in the celebration of the festive occasion
imagePhoto of the Puerta del Sol Xmas tree in close range

Every year, the agency Loterias y Apuestas del Estado come up with a video advertisement promoting the Christmas lottery draw in December, with this year’s draw scheduled to happen on the 21th. 2016 Anuncio Loteria de Navidad’s theme is El Mejor Premio es Compartirlo, roughly translated as “The best prize is Sharing.” And like the previous ones, it proves to be a tearjerker. Be ready with your hankie as you watch this heartwarming Christmas lottery ad.

Faces at MADO Madrid Orgullo

This could’ve been a more thorough blog post had I attended the stiletto race for men, an awaited part of Madrid Orgullo.  MADO for short, Madrid Pride is undoubtedly the most popular gay pride event in Europe.

I always wanted to feature Madrid’s gay-friendly barrio Chueca, where the run will be held, but unfortunately, I didn’t learn about the event in time. In fact, I almost missed the whole MADO affair if hadn’t been for its advertisement with event details plastered inside ad street panels along Bravo Murillo.

So last Saturday, I took the Metro Line 1 that passes through Atocha station one and a half hours before the parade’s supposed start at 6PM. I didn’t witness the whole event since I left way before it was finished; still I made sure that I collected fine photographs for my blog.

I took shots immediately as I reached Calle Claudio Moyano in front of Plaza Emperador Carlos V, the roundabout near Retiro Park. People were everywhere and in a perpetual motion, running around and waving their flags, securing the poles to the sides of their banners, and watching other people.

Participants focused on their makeup and costumes, prepping like they never prepped before. It was obvious that everyone was excited for the parade to start.

What’s also apparent was that people appeared bold and unabashed – an effect of Tinto de verano (a popular Spanish alcoholic beverage), I suppose. Some walked back and forth, and then back again, in the middle of the street like it is a catwalk, excited to show off their costumes and look. After one strutted down in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd, another would follow and try to outdo him by performing out-of-this-world antics.

And, just when you thought you had seen the craziest costumes, a naked pair arrived, each parading a prosthetic reproductive protrusion that dangled from his waist, to the amusement of the crowd.

I saw at least two groups with members in revealing outfits, a few of them stripped to their underwear. The most popular materials for costumes at the event were mesh cloth and leather, and anything that carries the LGBT colors.

Many loved to use the rainbow flag as an accessory, draping it on their back like a cape. A few others wrapped the flag around the waist like a skirt. One wore a small-sized flag like a headband, which was the right thing to do considering that afternoon’s intensely hot temperature. It was indeed fun, even exhilarating, to get shots of the crowd.

Overall, many looked really fabulous, except for a few, which to be frank, didn’t look so fabulous at all.

One thing that quite surprised me is that people willingly posed for anyone who requested to take photos. People did have the right to refuse, but in my case, everyone was accommodating. Those with cameras must have had a field day since every other person in the event was a beautiful subject of photography. I myself had a hard time in choosing which one to shoot first since there are just too many. It was a prolific day for me, having gathered enough  blog-worthy pictures from the MADO event.

Hopefully, I have chosen well and posted the best, most colorful, and most fabulous photos in my Madrid blog.

imageThis Gothic beauty walked down the whole route of the parade to the enjoyment of the spectators.  She strutted with a fierce look on her face, stopping only whenever photographers requested to shoot her

imageThe water looked inviting, and it really was a hot afternoon, and so this lady decided to cool down by sitting at the water fountain along Paseo del Prado

imageThe girl on the left, with the alpha and omega tattoo on her belly, thought I wanted her to take my picture. They gamely posed when I told them I wanted theirs. An attractive pair with comely smiles, brought close together by a beautiful lei of rainbow colors

image Flags flashing the LGBT colors were everywhere and used as capes or what they’re intended to be – like in this picture

image I requested this gentleman to close his eyes for a better look at his eyelashes. It was a colorful work of art that’s meant for everyone to see

imageAlthough there are many other Pride parades happening in different regions in Spain, such as Barcelona and Ibiza, the Madrid Orgullo is recognized as the biggest and most colorful parade event in the country
image This pair wears the attire that suits the occasion – a pair of sunglasses, glitzy ties, and nothing else

imageThe Madrid Orgullo is recognized as the most celebrated and attended pride event of them all.  It is everyone’s observation that MADO has become more and more conventional throughout the years, in the sense that not only members of the LGBT community attend it but those with straight orientation as well

imageThe Plaza de Cibeles above, an hour before the event. The whole area was filled by onlookers by the time the parade passed through it. Notice the LGBT flag hanging at the facade of the Palacio de Cibeles

imageGirls just wanna have fun! Notice the girl on the left holding a glass filled with the wine-like beverage known as Tinto de verano, very popular in the country and often compared to sangria. La Casera, a top brand, was sold in many corners along the parade area

imageGroups position in the street upon the announcement that the parade is about to start

imageFour sailors and their muse

imageThis lady projects her exquisite look for the camera. Apart from the stilleto race and the gay parade, activities were also held at Barrio Chueca, known as the gay district of the city and the biggest one in Europe

imageGiving their best smiles, they strike me as cool, strong, and independent young women ready to have some fun at the event.

imageThe winged man! Vive y deja vivir – Live and let live. Use Google Translate if you want to know what the second line means

imageRainbow flag flies high over participants as they march along Paseo del Prado. The parade passed through Plaza de Cibeles, with Plaza de Colon as the final stop, where parties, dancing, and fun activities happened through the remainder of the day

That One Afternoon when Streets were Carless in Madrid

That Sunday afternoon of May 15 was a peculiar one. Scattered were throngs of people on certain areas in Madrid, specifically around the Palacio de Cibeles, Banco de Espana, Sevilla, and Puerta del Sol. It was just for a few hours, but was an event quite unusual, nonetheless. “Humans triumphed over vehicles,” I should say; it was a rare time when pedestrians enjoyed street domination. Cars were hardly in sight that it afforded people to be able to walk in the middle of the streets, not one hurrying, but instead walked at a leisurely pace. While many headed straight towards Sol, others sauntered off a bit presumably to better check the surroundings.

Roads literally had everything in them except auto buses plying the affected route. A municipal car was parked in the middle of the Plaza, beside the Fuente de la Cibeles (Cybele fountain). Policemen stood in the middle of the plaza to direct traffic. I noticed one of them approached an autobus coming from Paseo del Prado and seemed to have instructed the driver to reroute to the opposite direction.

Everyone at my bus (Line 5) got off as told by the driver. All went down the parada across the Casa de America building, along Paseo de Recoletos. Seeing throngs already milling around the fountain, many of my co-passengers followed suit and rushed to the middle of the plaza.

My immediate thoughts were to take some photos of the Cibeles, both the fuente and the edifice. I’ve always wanted to have really clear pictures of the fountain but since I can only take it from the sidewalk or even through the window of the bus, I couldn’t produce clear photos. I avoid using the zoom-in feature since it doesn’t do the pictures any good. Zooming in the view on your phone camera only creates unsightly pixels, which renders the photos as inferior.

That afternoon afforded me the chance to stand a mere few feet from the fountain, gazing unflinchingly at it,  and happy that all the shots I took gave me crispy, vivid results.

Afterwards, I walked at Gran Via, in the middle of road,  moving at a crawling pace to better examine and takes shots of the buildings that lined its sides. However, as I viewed the photos that I took, the results were less than desirable. It might be because of the lighting at the time, and the fact that the buildings at Gran Via were too tall that I had to assume awkward positions and take shots from poor angles. Pictures came out with the edifices partially captured, or with unwanted shadows on their facade. Eventually, I decided to tuck away my mobile phone onto my pocket and just enjoyed the rest of my walk to Sol.

Overall, it was great timing indeed. I was glad I made the decision to attend the Sunday mass at the Iglesia de San Gines de Arles at Calle del Arenal. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have experienced it – that fine afternoon when streets were car-less in Madrid.

imageThe Palacio de Cibeles y Fuerte de Cybele. I was right in front of the fountain when I took this shot

image I’m within the vicinity of the Plaza de la Independencia, a major square in Madrid. Here is where  important vias intersect, like Calle de Alcala, Serrano, and Calle de Alfonso XII.  In the background is the Puerta de Alcala, a landmark near the entrance to the Retiro Park

imageTurning into a long pedestrian walkway for a few hours that Sunday, May 15 was Gran Via, where mothers and dads push the strollers carrying their babies and couples holding hands while enjoying some leisure walk. Many others take advantage of the chance to have unique shots of themselves doing crazy poses while in the middle of the street

imageThis is such an opportune time when everyone enjoys walking the roads of Madrid (at least, in this corner of the city) freely – without the traffic lights impeding the flow of pedestrians, or without worrying about passing vehicles

image As I near Puerta del Sol, the movement of people in the streets turned slower. Crowds were all around and became thicker. Upon arriving at the plaza (Sol) I saw a rally was being held. While first, I thought the streets were closed because of the Fiesta de San Isidro, I could only surmise later on that the rally created a mayhem that it caused the nearby streets to be unavailable to car traffic

All Roads Lead to the Pradera: Las Fiestas de San Isidro

The official festival of the city is the Fiestas de San Isidro. From May 12 to 16, everyone in Madrid is a witness to what is touted as one of the liveliest, most colorful, and most attended festivities in the city. Yes, it’s a four-day long affair, albeit the 15th is when most of the activities that matter happen, at the place where you will find the shrine of city’s Patron saint – the Pradera de San Isidro. At the vastness of this parque is where chotis is danced the whole day long, performances are held, and thousands arrive to pay homage to Madrid’s beloved saint. The wide, winding stretches of streets around the fields sell Madrileno cocido as well as clavels (carnations), berets, complete sets of chulapas, Castizo souvenirs – just about anything associated with the fiestas.

Where is the Parque de San Isidro?

The Parque, or the Pradera (which means grassland or meadow), is found along Paseo de la Ermita del Santo. It is a wide expanse of land just beside the famous Manzanares River; hence, it’s impossible for you to miss it. How to go? If you’re taking the Metro at Valdeacederas (nearest station to where I live), ride Line 1, and get off at Gran Via station. If you’re coming from Plaza Castilla, take the Line 10 ride to Alonzo Martinez. From there, transfer to line 5 and get off at Marquez de Vadillo. Tread the Calle de General Ricardos, then turn right upon reaching the first corner, at Paseo del Quince de Mayo. Walk the length of this street until you reach the Ermita de San Isidro, the shrine of the patron saint.

What happens at the Pradera?

It was here where the journey of pilgrims to the pradera happened after the saint’s death. The pilgrimage was a major, historic event that it became the subject of one of Francisco Goya’s painting, A Pilgrimage to San Isidro. For four days, the park is transformed into a huge venue offering various activities that everyone can watch, participate and enjoy. It’s quite a huge place, and so probably anyone in Madrid who wants to go there can be accommodated. Entrance, of course, is free. People are expected to wear chulapa costumes, set up their picnic cloth onto the ground to eat traditional Spanish comida (paella, jamon, rosquillos, bocadillos, watch various performances, and dance the hours away. By mid-morning of May 15, everyone is treated to an exciting parade of gigantes, including that of San Isidro and his wife, Santa Maria de la Cabesa.  A lavish display of fireworks is scheduled at midnight of May 16; this signals the end of the festivities.

Celebration all around the city

By the time this article goes online (probably tomorrow), the fiestas will have ended. Today, May 16, the celebration is almost finished, and whole city must be exhausted from all that had transpired so far. Remember that it is a Madrid-wide event, and so while the Parque de San Isidro was the focal point of the fiesta, other areas of the city also participated in the festivities. For instance, the streets of Plaza del Sol and Gran Via were treated to the Parada de Gigantes. Plaza Mayor, on the other hand, was host to the festival of Madrileno dances. Lavapies was the venue to the performances of various bohemian and blues bands. At Templo de Debod, visitors enjoyed concerts on classical music. Those inclined in arts and crafts were able to see the exhibit at Plaza de Las Comendadoras at Plaza Espana, which featured an extensive collection of Spanish ceramic pieces.

Bullfight season

The fiesta coincides with the bullfighting season, which is during the months of May and June. For many, the bullfights add further to the excitement of the festivities. Undoubtedly, Madrid’s bullfighters are known to be the best in the world. By May, however, tickets for the Las Ventas stadium where top-seeded bullfights are held become more difficult to obtain. Hence, it is advisable to get them during off-season.

Few Facts about the beloved Saint

  • San Isidro is not only patron saint of Madrid, but also that of the farmers.
  • A miracle attributed to him involved saving his son who fell on a well. Another account tells about him creating a spring just by plowing the ground. Later, the water that originated from the spring supposedly healed and saved lives.
  • His complete name is San Isidro Labrador, which means Isidore the Laborer, or Isidore the Farm worker.
  • He was born in Madrid in 1070, died in 1130, and canonized as a Saint in 1622, some 492 years after his death.
  • Aside from Spain, the Feast of St Isidore is celebrated in many other countries around the world, including the United States, the date of commemoration of which is either May 15 or March 22, depending on the state. In Catholic Philippines, St. Isidro Labrador is also honored as the Patron saint of farmers.

image I was running late, and so was worried that I might miss the Gigantes parade scheduled at 10AM. I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way, even with the Madrid Metro App and all.  Good thing I encountered these two comely senoras at Grand Via Station, and was relieved when I learned that they were also headed to the Park of Sn Isidro. I wasn’t lost after all. Donning the complete traditional Castizo dresses, they were gracious enough to allow me to take their picture

imageThe amiable gigante and his mini-me wearing identical chulapo, which consists of a checkered cap or beret, waistcoat, and a bright red carnation on his breast pocket. Chulapo is derived from the word chulo, the meaning of which is not quite clear to me. Some websites use chulo to denote a pimp or cheat,  while others define it as  hot and smartly dressed. The Parada de los Gigantes of May 15 started at the corner of Paseo de Quince de Mayo
image Food stalls doing business along the streets surrounding the park of St Isidro. Here is where you can find paella, Grilled pork, salchichon, bocadillos, rosquillas, pulpo, Madrileno cocidos, and other traditional food stuff served during major Madrid festivities
image Paella is one of the popular dishes or “cocidos” sold at the park. The large wok at the photo is filled with shellfish, pulpo, eggs, and other meat ingredients commonly used for paella. The rice or arroz is yet to be addedimageAubergines or baby eggplant, which according to the food seller, is pickled in vinegar, cumin, and olive oil, with some garlic and salt added to taste. It is usually stuffed with sweet red bell pepper

image Pickled stuffed olives wrapped in anchovies are skewered onto barbeque sticks to keep everything (olive and fish) together imageRosquillos de San Isidro – Spain’s version of the donut. These traditional pastries are sold aplenty during the month of May. The most common types are listas and tontas; the former is covered with deliciously sweet fondant, while the latter is baked without any outer sweetened covering image Couples garbed in chulapos perform a traditional dance called the Chotis. The dance was originally Scottish, but was embraced by the Spaniards as their own imagePerformers momentarily rest and enjoy some laughs after a dance performance. Here in Quince de Mayo, just in front of Ermita de San Isidro, some of the most lusty and engaging chotis dances were performed image Like how history happened when the pilgrims went to the hermitage to attend mass and pay homage to San Isidro, I joined many others who visited the shrine at the Paseo de Quince de Mayo to kiss on the saint’s remains

imageI had the opportunity to kiss the reliquary, or the small container holding the remains of San Isidro

imageI rue missing the gigantes parade at Central Madrid (Plaza Mayor, Gran Via) as they were supposedly joined by more characters. The parade at Pradera, of course, was no less interesting. People followed the gigantes of four as they walk the streets of San Isidro. Here, you can see the crowd milling around themimageThe gigantes couples face each other and start to dance the chotis, to the glee of spectatorsimagePerformer dons the costume of a zaldiko, the Basque term for horse

imageThe kiliki, like the gigante, is a popular character of the San Isidro Fiesta. He holds a whip with a foam rock at the end, which he uses to punish erring childrenimage A Latino guitarist performs a traditional Castizo musical piece together with his twin puppets, a fun performance immensely enjoyed by the kids at the park image This is what I only managed to take a shot of – since I was late for the pyrotechnics show. I arrived a good 10 minutes after the final song that accompanied the pyrotechnics display was through. Still, the illuminated Alfonso XII monument and the Retiro lake were a sight to behold.  Along with many other revelers, I decided to stay a few more minutes to enjoy the mesmerizing view until the lights were turned offimageThis Madrileno family, complete with cool sunglasses and chulapo costumes sit upon their chosen spot at the Pradera  near the Ermita de San Isidro.  The gathering together of families at the meadows is a tradition  that has been observed over the years
imagePeople sit on the meadows near the shrine as they wait for the start of the midday mass
image In keeping with the tradition, a open-air midday mass is celebrated at the Paseo de la Ermita del Santo

image The bust of Goya stands at the entrance of the park. One of the greatest Spanish artists ever, he preserved his memory of the San Isidro meadows through his immortal paintings, The Pilgrimage of Sn Isidro and The Meadow of San Isidro, both of which are on display at Museo del Prado

La pradera de San Isidro de Goya This painting offers a lush and vivid telling of the celebration of the feast of San Isidro happening at the park by the Manzanares River. A beautiful masterpiece by Francisco Goya (Source: Public Domain, Francisco Goya, Wikimedia Commons)
image A few blocks from the La Latina, at Plaza de San Andres, is The Museo de San Isidro. Here is where the saint spent his last days. The museum boasts of collections that date back from prehistoric times of Madrid up to its development as a modern city

Semana Santa 2016 Madrid

As I observe and celebrate my second Holy Week here in Madrid, I decided to be up close and more into it this time.  Especially during the days leading up to Easter, I soaked up the city’s main way of celebrating the Semana Santa, which is the procession, a congregation of a variety of people, or “los gentes” – the devotees and believers, Cofradia officers and members, Nazarenos, Costaleros, tourists, and even the watchers and the curious lot. It’s fascinating to see how everyone wants to participate, whether as one of those parading through the streets and plazas for hours to carry heavy religious statues, or as a mere bystander who’s content to watch from the sidelines. Lent in Madrid is all about things meant to remember Christ – chanting, band playing, reciting oraciones, hearing masses, and even more processions.

Needless to say, my effort to be more involved was greatly rewarded. More than being the learning experience that it is, everything was a total eye-opener, which meant me letting out the boxed-up feeling of my somewhat latent appreciation for the Catholic faith. It’s just one of the many positive things that I gained as I went through the almost-sublime experience that is Madrid’s Semana Santa.

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo

JUEVES SANTO – Nuestro Padre de Jesus del Gran Poder / Maria Santisima de la Esperanza Macarena at Real Colegiata de San Isidro, Calle Toledo

HOLY THURSDAY – the day when I thought some cosmic forces decided to conspire against me. Just an hour before the procession, I discovered that I left my abono (Metro train/autobus travel pass) while already at the stop, so I went scrambling back to the apartment. Precious time gone to waste. Then later, while already having boarded the bus, I thought I left my ID card as I checked my things. So I hurriedly got off the next stop at Cuzco, only to find out upon rechecking that it was tucked in my passport wallet after all. And to make things worse, when I arrived at Calle Toledo, all I managed was to be within 100 meters, a distance so far I couldn’t even see the facade of the church. These wretched circumstances, they caused me to miss the procession altogether. Despite (or because of?) the frustration, I resolved to be early for Good Friday’s procession.

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I was far, too far from the entrance of Real Colegiata de San Isidro. Worse, the procession turned the opposite way

VIERNES SANTO: Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores, at Parroquia de Santa Cruz, Calle Atocha, 6

GOOD FRIDAY – I gave up the usual engagement (read: home chores, blogging) to clear my afternoon and make sure that I am off to Santa Cruz early. Leaving home an hour and a half before the procession time, I rushed to the bus station at Paseo de la Castellana and Calle de Rosario Pino, hoping that autobus no. 5 would arrive soon. It did. As soon as I was seated, it somehow put my mind on ease about missing the procession. Arrived at Puerta del Sol at 6.45, now I am too early. I decided to look around to while away time. To my surprise, the sight of a myriad of people greeted me – doing the usual things like shopping, roaming around, and sightseeing, like it’s an ordinary Friday. Yes, I agree that Puerta del Sol is a tourist area, but then again, I presumed that on a Good Friday, activities in the area would be toned-down. As it is, most establishments were doing business that day. El Corte was open, and so were other high-end boutiques, the Mercado de San Miguel, restaurantes like Museo del Jamon, and the souvenir shops in Plaza Major and beyond.

I realized that the Holy Week isn’t quite enough reason for the Spaniards to deviate, even if momentarily, from their normal day-to-day life, which I thought is a demeanor that’s fine and not offensive or even egregious. It is apparent that being observant of the Holy Week, while acting like it’s just another normal one, is a behavior typical of them. It’s their nature, which I wouldn’t dare judge or underrate, in the same degree that I don’t want anyone to judge mine.
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Upon arriving at Parroquia de Santa Cruz, I chanced on the Nazerenos gathering at the front part of the parade, carrying their processional crosses, torches, and banners. They had their faces behind pointy capirotes to hide them from general view. Minutes after 6:30, the crowd livened up and roared with gusto upon seeing that the procession is about to start. The procession moves at last, even if slowly, to cause everyone to applaud in appreciation.

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Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores stands atop a float exquisitely decorated with flowers and candle lights. Hearty cheers and applause from devotees welcome her as she is brought out of the church to join the procession.

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Cofradia or brotherhood is depicted in this photo, wherein the Costaleros work together to carry the magnificent float of Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores to its destination. Typical statues chosen for display atop such floats are the major players of the Lent, like Christ or the Virgin Mary, or the barrio’s patron saint. The floats, tronos in Spanish, are themselves an attraction. Many are priceless, being in existence for decades, some even centuries, and have been passed on from one generation to another. They are masterful creations of well-known Spanish artists. 

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At the end of the procession is the marching band playing music in honor of the Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores

SABADO DE GLORIA – Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo, Iglesia de la Concepción Real de Calatrava, Calle Alcalá, 25

According to procession schedule posted online, there is only one religious parade on Black Saturday in Madrid, and it is happening at the Iglesia de la Concepcion Real de Calatrava, along Calle Alcala. I liked that the event was on an afternoon – the photos were clearer as every shot comes with great, natural lighting. The sun was up and the air was cool – I felt comfortably warm even with just a light sweatshirt on. The weather was conducive to holding a great procession.

imageWomen and men don traditional clothes as they await the start of the procession. Elderly officials and members of the Cofradia are dressed appropriately in attune to the occasion. Customary wear for women are black gowns and veils (mantillas). The latter are a beautiful adornment, held high on their heads with the use of a comb called the peineta. Men are also dressed in black attire, either a suit or robe. In contrast, penitents wear a simple garb, with their faces behind a cover and feet bare to emphasize a remorseful mood.

image The statue of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo emerges from the church atop the float carried by costaleros. It’s obviously heavy beyond description, which must be why the pall-bearers do rhythmic swaying motions – they probably help ease the load that pushes hurtfully onto their shoulders.

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Following the statue of the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo is the musical band playing slow-beat music

imageJoining the procession are officials of La Communidad de Madrid and leaders of the Cofradia

imageThe statue passes by the former BBVA building and the current headquarters of the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Planning

image Participants wear purple and black-colored pointy hoods and carry scepters as they trail the float of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo. Nazarenos, who hold crosses and candles during religious parades, are known to walk barefoot as a sign of penance. However, I didn’t notice this group doing so.

DOMINGO DE PASCUA – Plaza Mayor

Happy Easter! It has been the tradition to welcome the Risen Lord via the beating of the drums at Plaza Mayor, in Central Madrid. Called the Tamborada del Domingo de Resureccion, it is the awaited event of the day, where numerous drums are beaten and played to recreate that thunderous sounds and quakes that were said to have happened during the Resurrection of Jesus.

image The Lord is risen! Throngs congregate in the middle of Plaza Mayor to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.
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Drummers beat their instruments loudly to signify the Risen Christ. Each participant’s pounding is  in sync with the rest to create a simple yet melodious booming rhythm, keeping everyone engrossed in their performance.

Religion in Spain: Palm Sunday Scenes

The Lent is fully observed here in Madrid as it is in many other Catholic countries in the world. In fact, I noticed an increase in the number of masses scheduled throughout the Lenten Season in the churches that I go to, such as the Parroquia de San Antonio de Cuatro Caminos at Bravo Murillo. Musical orchestras claim the altars of churches as their temporary mini-concert stages, like the neoclassical-styled altar of the medieval church of San Gines in Calle Arenal, albeit performances are wholly solemn to conform to the season and venue. Evidently, religion in Spain is very much alive – and this is true in all aspects.

March 20, 2016 was Domingo de Ramos, or Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week. Peddled intricately-woven palm branches within and surrounding the church premises are aplenty, offering the churchgoers varied options in terms of sizes and shapes. However, I found them to be exorbitantly high, with some sold as much as 5 euro apiece.

An awaited event during Palm Sunday and done in many parts of Spain is the religious procession, a congregation of devotees marching the streets of cities and barrios in a slow fashion while chanting prayers and hymns. Beloved religious icons are carried along – they serve as centerpieces that remind the Catholic faithful of the ultimate sacrifice, which is the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The central area of Madrid boasts of its own procession, with a route that includes popular tourist areas such as Puerto del Sol and Plaza Mayor. The Cofradias, brotherhood associations in Spain, organize these street events during the Semana Santa. Keeping alive the age-old custom of holding Semana Santa processions has been these groups’ unwavering quest, ever since such tradition started during the Middle Ages.

I wasn’t able to go to Sta Iglesia Catedral de Sta María la Real Almudena, which was the procession’s starting point.  Instead, I first attended the 6PM Mass at San Gines, and rushed to the Plaza del Sol afterwards to join the good-sized crowd that were already watching it. A significant portion had already passed through, which was unfortunate since I’ve wanted to see the huge cross that was said to be held high in front.

Palm Sunday in Madrid

Processions carrying the Statue of Christ usher in Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week. If we were to remember, Jesus rode a donkey and tread the streets of Jerusalem where he was welcomed by the crowd. I was a bit disappointed (like everyone else, presumably) that the Christ Icon was cloaked in plastic, but it was understandable as it was meant to protect the holy relics from intermittent rains that afternoon. I was in the midst of onlookers, with some holding palm branches and waving them up in the air to welcome the participants. Among the enthusiastic welcomers were a few women elaborately dressed in black gowns and headdresses.

I might not have witnessed the procession from start to finish as I planned, but I was exhilarated just the same to have seen even if only a part of it. The experience inspired me to pursue a deeper and more meaningful observance of the rest of the Semana Santa. Likewise, I’m happy that the Spaniards do observe these religious holidays just like back home. They take to the streets during the Holy Week, but this time not to drink and enjoy some merrymaking, but to reenact important scenes from the Passion and Death of Christ. They do not treat the Semana Santa as merely a way of having more time for vacation and family, but as a means of continuing olden traditions as practicing Catholics.

imageWhile other processions feature bands playing drum and cymbals, the marching band yesterday at Puerto del Sol used wind instruments to play slow religious music to accentuate the solemnity of the occasion.
imageGetting the attention of the crowd are ladies dressed in black, elegant gowns and similarly-hued mantillas espanolas (veils) hanging over their peinetas, or high combs. These were attires similar to the ones I saw at Parroquia de San Antonio  and Almudena Cathedral during important town occasions in the past. 
imageIt was Domingo de Ramos, the start of Semana Santa, and so it would have been ideal if the sun was out. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy, with a bit of wind. And as expected, the rains caused some inconvenience, like the organizers needing to cover the beloved icon with plastic to protect it from damage. Just the same, the float was beautiful, being fully adorned with c0lorful flowers. According to the schedules announced online, the procession starts at 4.30. The rains obviously slowed down the procession as it took them more than two hours to reach nearby Puerta del Sol.

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Participants wear pointy headdresses called Capriotes and long white gown worn during penance activities called Nazareno. It is said that the Capriotes point to the sky to make for an easy road to heaven. They wear white hood to cover their faces in order to hide their identity as remorseful penitents. Some Palm Sunday processions are joined by those with their feet bare and heavy chains attached to ankles to render a more difficult penance.
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Rey Carlos III, at Plaza  del Sol, appears to lead the way for the Christ icon as the float that carries Him wades through eager onlookers. As the float passed by me, I tried to pry on what’s underneath it, looking for Costaleros, or the men assigned to carry the float on their shoulders. Any Spaniard takes pride in being a Costalero as carrying such heavy weight thru the entire route of the procession meant forgiveness of his sins and immense blessings. Such great rewards, which is why a Costalero would not mind suffering great pains for hours just to ensure the float reaches its final destination.

Christmas 2015 in Madrid

Christmas is just around the corner. A week from now, Spain and the rest of the world will again be commemorating the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In my case, this will be my second Christmas in Madrid. And as in the previous year, it’s all bright, colorful and Christmassy everywhere I look, with the sentiments of warmth, love and happiness pervading the air around. There’s no doubt that Madrilenos love Christmas and are just all out when it comes to celebrating this festive season, such as looking forward to lots of parties, attending occasions of family get together and reunions, and gift-giving.

For posterity, I will again post a number of Christmas scenes from various places in Madrid – Plaza del Sol, El Corte Ingles in Calle de Castellana, Calle de Alcala, and Cibeles. I wish that this particular post will somehow send out the spirit of the Yuletide Season, even if in its small and humble way. Feliz Navidad a todos! image Colorful lanterns hang along the length of the the street of Alcala, which starts from Plaza de Independencia to Plaza de Cibeles

image Formerly known as the Palacio de Communicaciones, the Palacio de Cibeles lords over everything else within the whole area of the Plaza de Cibeles. During Christmas, it serves as the centerpiece of the vicinity, being the most intricately lighted and decorated edifice in tune with the Yuletide season.

image Anos Luz at Calle de Alcala 111, a seller of modern lighting fixtures and systems puts up a beautiful display that’s appropriate for the season.

image As soon as December starts, you will definitely not miss this yellow light-decked Christmas Tree as it becomes the center of attraction at Puerta del Sol. It is actually the same tree that they put up at at plaza last year, with the same decor, lighting, and all. Still, it never fails to buoy up the Yuletide spirit in everyone. This tree alone makes Sol – hands down – the most Christmassy in all of Madrid.

imageEl Corte Ingles, one of Spain’s premier shops, takes the season seriously with its gargantuan board showing moving Xmas displays for everyone, customers and pedestrians, to see and appreciate.

Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena: Procession at the Almudena Cathedral

November 9 is a special holiday in Madrid. For the residents of Madrid, Spain, this is a very important date — when the beloved patroness La Virgen de la Almudena is feted. It’s no-work day for Madrilenos in order to offer full honors to the Patron Saint of the city and  celebrating the Lady’s feast.

imagePeople wait for the procession to pass through and enter the Almudena Cathedral. The icon of the Virgin involves a few popular stories, one of which is that the people of ancient Madrid town decided to hide the statue as the town was captured by the Moslem warriors. Upon reconquering of Madrid by Rey Alfonso VI, he and his soldiers looked for the whereabouts of the icon. It was discovered hidden behind a portion of the walls that protected the town

11AM Mass at the Plaza

Everyone gathers within and around the Plaza Mayor, many of them garbed in brightly-colored capes and gowns — known as chulapos and chulapas. Here, they await and hear the special mass that is meant to celebrate Nuestra Senora de la Virgen de la Almudena. People join the procession of the patron as the icon is carried around the area until it is brought to the Cathedral Almuneda. It is one of the most special Spanish holiday, a highly awaited religious event of the city — with all of the local women invited to come and participate in the feast day’s activities, especially the procession.

Legend about the City Patroness

Recognized as the most important religious holiday in Madrid, it comes with a popular legend. It tells about a miracle that is attributed directly to the Virgin of Al Mudena. This particular story, which has been handed down from one generation to another, tells about the icon being hidden during the Moorish invasion and conquest. It was said that 3 lighted candles accompany the statue as it was hidden behind a wall. It was only after three hundred years that the icon was found after an exhaustive search by the Madrilenos, with the candles miraculously still lit.

imageMen and women participants at the plaza in front of the Almudena Cathedral, wearing beautiful suits and gowns as well as long capes – these are the traditional dresses that are worn in celebration of the Fiesta of Madrid’s patron – Virgen de la Almudena
imageWe proceeded to one of the city’s most popular squares – the Plaza Mayor – where a midday mass was held in the midst. This is one of the highlights of the celebration of this religious Spanish holiday of Madrid.  You would realize from the number of attendees in the square that the Virgen de la Almudena is well-loved by the Madrilenos

imageParticipants of the procession walk the streets around the plaza of the Almudena, wearing traditional Chulapo and Chulapa dresses. To honor the Virgin, people offer beautiful flowers to her – this is also a common gesture that befits Madrid’s beloved patroness
imageEveryone joins the Spanish holiday celebration in Madrid last November 9, either as onlookers and participants to the procession. The Virgin of the the Al muneda is an ancient and revered representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The icon serves to remind the people of Madrid that the Virgin of Almoneda is the city’s Patroness
image Statue of Pope John Paul IV in the courtyard of the Catedral.

Where in Madrid:

Calle de Bailen, 10

Map: