In the following post, you will read about 5 fun facts about Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Sevilla and why you should add it to your curriculum this year! It is a great addition of authentic culture into your classroom.

A little backstory as to why I love Semana Santa: during my junior year of college, I studied abroad during the Spring semester in Sevilla (see photo below!). At first, I wasn’t sold on the “magic of Semana Santa,” (see my blog post “My Traditional, But Not So Traditional Semana Santa in Sevilla, Spain”). But then, as I learned about the different facts and traditions surrounding Semana Santa, I grew to love it and incorporate it into my lesson plans every April!

My friend Kari, and I, in the streets of Sevilla during Semana Santa 2007

What Is Semana Santa? What Is Authentic Culture?

Semana Santa en Sevilla is the reenactment of the Passion of Christ, also known as, Jesus’s Last Days. Before you cross this off your list due to “religion,” Semana Santa is akin to how we celebrate “La Navidad” in the classroom: Semana Santa is culturally integrated into many parts of the Spanish-speaking world therefore, worthy of a second look due to its cultural significance. In one city alone–Mexico City’s Iztapalapa (see point #3 below), over 3 million people take part in one of the largest Passion plays in the world. Semana Santa is a big deal for many around the world!

Most language teachers are familiar with ACTFL’s Cultural Framework, which is often expressed as a triangle of “Products,” “Perspectives,” and “Practices.” Authentic culture proves instrumental in the foreign language classroom, as it is “the true content of the foreign language course” and the “why” behind learning. Semana Santa demonstrates great examples of products (foods, music, clothing, etc.), perspectives (the meaning behind & value of Semana Santa), and practices (how people interact with each other, the roles that people assume during the ceremony) as defined by ACTFL.

1) Why Teach Semana Santa In Class: The Beauty of It

The pasos, or religious floats, are works of art, made with real precious stones and metals, and of the finest wood. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) these floats weigh over 1,000 kgs and can take dozens of men (cofradías) to carry.

Behind the scenes tip: I saw many men carry the floats barefoot. I was told that it was a sign of penitence.

Photo of a paso from my 2007 trip! This heavy artifact is being carried by dozens of men.

2) Why Teach Semana Santa In Class: Keeping Culture Alive

The music, the food (such as pestiños con miel–my favorite!), the traditional costumes, the roles & traditions: passed down for generations, are all ever-present features of Semana Santa in Sevilla. While in Spain, I observed that Semana Santa not only brimmed with locals but also with tourists wanting to take part in the celebrations. Students can learn about the celebration and even compare/contrast it to their personal celebrations, for example, Easter in NYC (if they have any).

3) Why Teach Semana Santa In Class: The Enduring Legacy

The history of Semana Santa in Sevilla can be traced back to the Middle Ages and it is still going strong despite the pandemic! The celebration in Sevilla is one of the largest in Spain. But Spain isn’t the only country to celebrate Semana Santa. While various countries participate in Semana Santa, Mexico City’s Iztapalapa organizes one of the largest Passion plays in Latin America, with over 3 million people taking part.

4) Why Teach Semana Santa In Class: To Clear Up Misunderstandings

The robes that the Nazarenes wear eerily look like the robes of KKK members, however, the two have nothing to do with each other. This is a good moment in class to clear up misunderstandings in class and to talk about the significance that cultures and societies place on objects. Again, check out my other video/blog on my not to so traditional Semana Santa!

Photo from my 2007 trip! The robes have no negative significance!

5) Why Teach Semana Santa In Class: To Incorporate Authentic Culture

Sometimes I see some teachers do mini-units on the Easter bunny and La Pascua, which is fine, but if our goal is to incorporate authentic target language culture, then Semana Santa provides a great option! I didn’t find that many Spaniards (can’t speak for all of the Spanish-speaking world) used the bunny imagery–everything focused on the Passion of Christ.

I hope that you found this post helpful! Let me know if you have any questions!


PS: For a copy of my classroom materials related to Semana Santa, click here!

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