Easter week or 'Semana Santa' as it is known is a very important time in Soller. The town divides up into fraternities – groups of people attached to a local church who have an affinity to a particular group of penitents. The penitents dress in the robes of their particular fraternity and this includes wearing pointed hats, reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan, with eye holes cut out and the rest of the face covered.
The point of this costume is to show your allegiance to your group and make your 'penance' in private by covering your face. There are twelve fraternities in Soller, led by the 'Confraria de Natzaret' and with other group names including Sant Josep Obrer, Santiago, Esperanca and Sagrat Cor, to name a few. They all have similar robes but there will be a particular flash of colour or embroidery to denote their identity.
There are daily services in the churches of the Soller valley, namely Port de Soller, L'Horta,Es Convent in Soller, Fornalutx and Deia starting Sunday 1st April and finishing on Easter Sunday 8th April. The timetable is posted outside each church and is also available from the tourist information office in Soller. This is the churches' busy season and they are guaranteed a full house for many of their services. There is something about the solemnity and tradition of Semana Santa that sucks you in and makes you think. My Majorcan neighbours who live 21st century lives proudly dress in this medieval way and embrace the whole experience of Easter, including the solemn parades around the streets.
On Thursday - Dijous Sant (or Maundy Thursday) at 9.30pm the most solemn and silent procession takes place. The penitents carrying the religious figures slowly walk around the centre of Soller. They walk the narrow streets between the convent and the town centre. This is known as the Procession of Blood and it is the only time that our town is quiet. The marchers are silent and all the crowds who have come to take part stand silently as the parade passes by. The only sound is that of the mournful drums of the town band as they bring up the rear.
On Good Friday there are services in all the churches and a solemn procession of the penitents starting at 8.30pm. This march is around the centre of town, in front of the main St Bartomeu church.
On Easter Saturday the march of the penitents starts at 7.45pm and it heads out of the square up past the cemetery and up the mountain to Cami de Ses tres Creus, the site of the three crosses memorial, ending with a service in St Bartomeu church at 10pm.
On Easter Sunday at 9.30 am in the main square in front of St Bartomeu church the Easter Parade celebrating the resurrection takes place. This is altogether a happier affair and the town band celebrates with more than a drum!
After all the agonising it is time for celebration and family gatherings and eating lots of local specialities. The lamb pies and the sweet pastries stuffed with custard fill the bakers' shops and are eaten as picnics on the beaches. All that soul searching is hungry work and a little light relief is called for!
It is well worth experiencing Semana Santa for yourself. I had never seen anything like it before I came to live here and to start with I found it macabre. As time has past I have come to understand what the people are doing and I respect them. If you are visiting this Easter do come and see what I mean – you will never forget it.