Image: Brijesh Patel
April 21 2011
Easter finds me in Spain, to enjoy the Semana Santa parades where cowled and masked cavalcades march the streets. Spain’s economy is on its knees but, as the dozens of sweating men who carry towering silver biers the through narrow streets show, this is a country that bears up under the strain.
This is religious faith at its best, or at least its most flamboyant. These richly choreographed processions put the spectacle back into Christianity’s relationship with the imponderables of the human condition. The Spanish seem less coy about proclaiming themselves as believers in the Christian church, or at least participants in its rituals, which involve everyone from local civic leaders to the army (cheerily named the bridegrooms of death). It is impossible to imagine anything as blatantly Christian being allowed to take place in England, let alone envisaging our elected leaders and members of the armed forces taking part.
And given the recent furore surrounding the issue of prisoners having the vote (although a vote in which system remains unclear), I cannot imagine any British justice secretary or home secretary finding much public approval for another Spanish custom at Easter: the release of criminals from prison. My local paper in Spain reports the preparations of one such fortunate inmate in the sort of terms that bring to mind a soldier returning from a tour of duty or someone being discharged from hospital after recovering from a serious illness, rather than a miscreant being released because of an ancient religious custom.
But then if you think too hard about it, Easter is a funny old time; why else would we choose to identify it with an egg-laying rabbit?