Every culture is different, there is nothing different about that. And any difference is cultural, and there is nothing particularly cultured about that.
Still, I get a kick out of observing these nuances. Yes, I know. Holy Week ended nearly a month ago and some of you may have thought that old man Murdock was going to finish another string of posts without actually finishing up…like some forgotten home chore…a book undusted…a shirt unironed…a plate unwashed.
This time it almost happened, but I still had that one afterthought in mind because it really does strike me as something peculiar. On Easter Sunday, when millions of Christians rise and celebrate the resurrection of Christ, what goes through the minds of a large percentage of the Spanish population is: “Hope the traffic’s not too bad on the way home,” basically because it will be bad…the unknown element is just how much.
And that pretty much sums up the Easter holiday weekend. Oh, you hear an occasional “Happy Easter” or eye the odd chocolate egg in a pastry shop, but other than than that, the day that marks the grand triumph of Jesus’ return to life and ensure that we will all be saved from eternal damnation somehow doesn’t quite get the news coverage you would otherwise expect. It’s as if the aspect of this week which most attracts the Spanish is the accompanying of Christ in his lowest, loneliest and most desperate moments; weeping for him; suffering from his suffering, and then saying, “Ok, that’s over with. See you next year, same hill, same cross.”
I have mentioned this curious approach to the week to a number of Spaniards and many have noted that they had never thought about it before and agreed that I had point. Not that they feel I am right. “That’s true.” is often their vague reply. “Interesting.” I even brought it to the attention of a priest who also saw what I was getting at but added “Well, that’s because it’s Good Friday and it’s the big day of the year. The most important one.”
“What do you mean it’s the most important one?” No doubt it’s the most solemn moment in the Christian calendar, but wait, that’s not where it ends. “A lot of people get crucified,” I continued. “Very few actually slide a five-ton boulder away from their grave a few days later and return to their friends to say that all is well. I mean, that’s sort of what sets him apart from other individuals who have been executed throughout the ages, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, that’s true.” Again that distant acknowledgement.
But that brings me to my point. There is no point in fighting culture when it comes to these traditions. It’s is simply the way things are done here. So, with the very lowest expectations in mind, I went down on Easter Sunday to the Plaza Mayor to watch the tamborada, which is a big drum fest put on by two marching bands. It was the only official event on the city’s agenda for that day. I gathered that at least something was being being done for Easter, I might as well go and see it. And, well, while not quite the mind-blowing experience I expected it to be, it was fairly entertaining. I was especially impressed by the wide range of ages in the group. It was from a small town in Zaragoza and my guess is that the local audiologist is the richest man in the area, as well as the licensed firearms purveyor.
Yes, it was fun to watch and listen to you. It lasted about an hour and when it was over, the leader of the group concluded out loud, as best as he could because for some reason he had no microphone to communicate with five thousand people from ground level at an outdoor event, “Thank you very much. That ends Holy Week for this year.” And they started rolling the drums again and departed.
There you have it.