A tradition during the Semana Santa processionals in my town (and most other towns in Andalucia) is that children carry small balls of foil with them. The hooded penitentes drip wax from their velas onto the balls. Over the years, the wax balls of the children grow. My friend’s eight year old, for example, has a ball the size of a softball.
My sons, especially my oldest, are obsessed. This practice involves fire and competition—in other words, it’s the perfect storm of awesome. And since some of the brotherhood members pass out candy to the children…..well, forget it. Game on.
I’m being a bit glib about a tradition that has deep spiritual significance for some, and cultural significance for most. All stores are closed on Thursday and Friday of this week, along with schools and most businesses. People pray, and attend misa, and gather with family. At night, they gather in the streets as the horns blare, and members of the brotherhood carry the Virgin on el paso, and hooded penitentes walk the streets. The streets smell of incense, young children perch on shoulders, and people make way for elders in wheelchairs.
But the miracle of this evening for me, was the passage of time. One year ago, the children clutched my hand until it was white, lacking the words or confidence to approach the hooded men.
One year ago, my kids did not have children calling out their name, inviting them to stand with their families.
One year ago, we didn’t recognize anybody in the parade. This year, one of my youngest’s classmates was IN the parade.
We greeted people on the street with kisses, and effortlessly joined a family for a meal. My oldest went off on his own, and we collected him later that evening.
Like the wax ball, our confidence grows and solidifies.