Becca in Hungary: Experiencing Faith Abroad

Easter weekend is probably one of my favorite times of the year! In fact, I have been planning this past Easter weekend way before I even arrived in Budapest. For Easter I went to Sevilla, Spain where they have huge Semana de Santa (Holy Week) parades. Each day of Holy Week a couple brotherhoods (groups of religious individuals) will a host a parade that will wind through the city of the Sevilla. The start of each procession is a alter boy carry a large cross. The parade continues with many individuals from the brotherhood including some children passing out candy and also large city bands . The star of the parades though are the pasos which are large, ornate, wooden floats.  Typically these floats depict images of Jesus’s crucifixion or the Virgin Mary.

Some of the floats of the parade

Some of the floats of the parade

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Now if the floats themselves aren’t stunning enough for you, if you look below the float you might be able to make out some feet. What are people doing under the float? Well for almost 10 to 14 hours these one ton floats are carried by over a dozen men! UNBELIEVABLE!! These men (woman are not allowed to carry them… yet 🙂 ) are only allowed to carry this float once in their lifetime making a very big honor for the people chosen to carry the paso.

These parades are certainly nothing like the Macy’s parade I am use to seeing around Thanksgiving or local parades in my hometown. While most parades have a more upbeat presence, the Semana De Santa parades are much more somber. They really make you think about your faith and religion. Not only do you see these beautiful depictions of various scenes, but beneath the scene you see many shuffling feet slowly jerking the float forward. Religious or not, it is amazing to witness these men’s testimony to God and their ability to overcome tremendous physical pain for the sake of their beliefs.

On top of the eye opening experience of the parades, I was also able to attend two separate services in Spain. The first was an Easter Mass in the Cathedral of Spain.

My failed attempt to get the whole Cathedral into one picture

My failed attempt to get the whole Cathedral into one picture

A picture from the tower of the Cathedral

A picture from the tower of the Cathedral

As you can tell this Cathedral is more of a fortress then a simple town church. Throughout the Cathedral there were several side chapels so at one time there could be multiple masses going on. This mass for me just didn’t spark my spiritual heart. It was very much a “get them in, get them out” approach rather than an in-depth spiritual experience.

On our way to dinner that night, though, I wanted to stop into one more small chapel, and that is when I found a group of semi-cloistered nuns partaking in a small worship ceremony. The nuns are behind a gated area meaning that they have limited interaction with the public while the priest were in the front leading the service. Within the chapel there were only maybe 5 benches for visitors to stay. The service was the complete opposite of the one I went to in the cathedral. While the cathedral was filled with thousands of people this service had only 4. What amazed me the most about this service was even though I did not understand one word that was being said (it was all in Spanish) I was still so moved by what he was saying. It really showed me that faith can transcend the barriers of language. If you keep your heart open to the message, you can hear the message through your faith rather than through your ears. Going to this service was definitely one of my favorite experiences I have had abroad!

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Now that I have returned from Spain and trying to get back into the swing of school, I am committed to staying within Hungary for the rest of the program. I have loved visiting all these new places, but the next month and a half I plan to focus my energy on Hungary.

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