Easter’s Traditions without Eggs

Here at Oretani Wildlife it’s not all about birds, or more recently about the construction of our guest accommodation, or the rain which hasn’t stopped either. We also offer a cultural view of our region, Castilla la Mancha, to our guests. And what could be more of a colourful and attractive culturalfestival than that of Easter. Every day throughout Easter week there are processions (if the rain allows) from different Hermandads, or brotherhoods, based on the theme of the day, whether it be plenty of branches and palms on Palm Sunday, or the silent procession on Good Friday where the walk barefoot and with chains on their ankles.

Nazareno of the Estudiantes brotherhood

The costumes can be elaborate and a lot of the processioners, the Nazarenos, wear tall pointed hats showing just their eyes, giving an eery, anonymous feel to the proceedings. They walk along, ghost like, ahead of the huge scenes of the crucifixion or of the Virgins from the churches which are carried on huge frames like a table called a paso. The pasos are carried by costaleros who carried these huge weights on the back of their necks, the 7th vertebra if I am not wrong. To be a costalero is a huge honour, and a wearisome task undertaken with great pride. The manoeuvrings to get around corners take great coordination as does the initial lifting of the paso which is done with a great upward leap bringing applause from the onlookers.

The traditional costaleros slippers.

One of the effigies of the Virgin

One of the effigies of the Virgin Mary

Following the paso is the band. The drummers generally beat a rhythmic booming beat which is quite sombre, and then after a while as the paso moves on faster the band strike up with trumpets, clarinets, horns and all sorts of brass instruments.

One of the bands in full regalia

These processions are in a lot of the big towns around Castilla la Mancha such as Daimiel, La Solana, Tomelloso to name a few, but the big ones in Ciudad Real are what draw the big crowds and are of National Cultural Interest.

Unique also to this region is a curious tradition held in Calzada de Calatrava on Good Friday of Easter week – El Juego de las Caras. It is said the tradition is either based on when the Romans cast lots for Christs clothes, or when Judas gave Christ up for 30 pieces of silver. Whichever its true, this is a day not to be missed if you fancy a gamble.

Juego de las Caras

The town paints circles in the street and a banker stands in the center. The people standing around the outside of the circle place money at their feet and the banker then places an equivalent amount with this. He takes two 10 peseta copper coins from the time of Alfonso XII and tosses them in the air. If the coins land with both head (or face, hence caras) sides up, the banker wins and walks around and gathers up all the money. If the coins land with both shield (or cruces) sides face up, the punters win and pick up theirs and the bankers money. If one of each side faces up then the bets stay and the coins are tossed again until two equal sides face up. HUGE amounts of money change hands in this game with people betting 50 and 100 euro notes regularly. I won 30 euros so I was happy but I have heard of people betting their tractors and animals.

So you see, we not only have our eyes on the birds and wildlife, but the traditions of the people that live here. You’ll love the culture.

Contact Oretani Wildlife for guided birding, wildlife and flora tours in Montes Norte and Castilla La Mancha, in central Spain.We’ll also give you a taste of the culture.

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