The three main monotheistic religions -Christianity, Judaism and Islam- not only share the belief that one God exists but they also have meat restrictions. Whereas, pork meat is forbidden in Jewish dietary laws -kashrut- and Islamic dietary law -Halal-, Christianity also restricts meat consumption in some liturgical feasts.
Nowadays, Spain is a laicist country and although those proclaiming themselves as Catholic are a minority, Spanish society still have very deep Catholic roots. Carnival celebrations, Lent and Holy Week are only some examples. Carnival is a festive season which occurs before Lent, usually during January and February. Traditionally, Carnival marked the last opportunity to celebrate and to eat special foods before Lent. The origin of the word is uncertain but it may come from Greek prefix carn (=”meat eater”), the Italian carne levare (=”to remove meat” or “taking away of flesh”) or the Late Latin expression carne vale (=”farewell to meat”) meaning that those were the last days when one could eat meat since meat was prohibited during some days in Lent.
Shrovetide or Shrove Tuesday (also know as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday) is the English equivalent of carnival in countries such as Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In countries of the Carnival tradition, the day before Ash Wednesday is either as Fat Tuesday or the “Tuesday of Carnival” (Spanish, Martes de Carnaval, German, Faschingsdienstag). Shrove Tuesday is associated with the eating of foods such us pancakes, and often known as Pancake Day, because these used up ingredients such as fat and eggs which were restricted during Lent. In Poland, it is known as Tlusty Czwartek (=Fat Thursday) and celebrated on the Thursday before Lent Paczki and faworki are traditianally eaten on this day.
The Teutonic word Lent is employed to denote the forty day´s fast preceding Easter. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday: forty days corresponding to the nunbr of days Christ spent in the wilderness. In fact, Lent was referred to by the Latin term quadragesima (Spanish cuaresma) , meaning the “forty days” , or more literally the “fortieth day”. In the Roman Catholic Church it is tradition to abstain from meat every Friday for the duration of Lent. Lent culminates in Easter Tridiuum and Easter Sunday.
The Easter Tridium are three parts of one celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, and it is spread out in three days: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and later, Easter Sunday.
In Spain, these days are celebrated with Holy Week processions. Every procession includes an image of Christ -different depending on what scene in the Bible it depicts- as well as an image of the Virgin Mary, always in mourning for the death of Chirst. The paso from La Macarena is one of the most famous images of the Virgin mary in Seville. The nazarenos are members of a brotherhood (=hermandad) or church that are part of the procession.They dress in a robe and cone shaped hood to hide his or her identity. Colors of robes and hoods depend on the procession. Holy Week in Seville is worldwide known.
Semana Santa in Murcia comes with the arrival of spring. During these days Murcia commemorates the suffering, the death and the resurrection of Christ in numerous processions, which are organised by the brotherhoods. The biblical scenes of the Passion are portrayed with the help of a great variety of scultures, standing out Salzillo scultures . The processions portray life, colour, culture and music hall with a very religious meaning. This artistic heritage makes Semana Santa in Murcia one of the most important in Spain.
Gastronomy is also influenced by these religious days. Traditionally, in Spain meat was restricted in Holy Week -although it is almost a forgotten habit nowadays- so fish is the basis of Easter dishes. Nevertheless, in some countries easter lamb is consumed these days. Some Easter recipes can be found in several languages: Recetas de Semana Santa, Easter Recipes, Rezepten für Ostern and Traditional Easter recipes around the world.