In Andorra, a Catholic country, the Christian traditions of Easter live on.
HOLY WEEK starts on Palm Sunday, (this year on the 9th April) when people go to Mass to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the palm fronds said to have been strewn in his path. Today, here in Andorra, up to the age of 12, godmothers present their godsons with palmons and their goddaughters with palmes. The palmons of the boys are large, simple pieces of palm leaf or a sprig of laurel whereas the girls’ palmes are intricately woven pieces of art in creamy coloured palm frond. The children take their palms to church to be blessed. On Good Friday a vigil is held in Andorra’s churches. And on Easter Sunday a special Mass is said. There is also an Anglican Easter Sunrise Service held in English at the Coll de la Botella, Pal to welcome the sun as it rises above the Eastern Pyrenees. Very moving on a clear day – not such fun in a blizzard.
THE MONA. Andorra has a special cake for almost every major feast day and Easter is no exception. The word ‘mona’ comes from the Moroccan term meaning ‘gift’ and, traditionally, at Easter time, godfathers give a Mona to their godchildren. This custom dates back to the 15th century. The Mona normally features eggs, one for each year of the child’s life. The cakes also symbolize the end of 40 days of Lenten austerity. Originally the cake was ring-shaped with the eggs perched along the rim but today the Mona are more like a Victoria sandwich cake filled with apricot jam and covered in chocolate icing and flamboyant, brightly-coloured ‘feathers’ and then topped off with Disney figures or Barcelona football players! Bakers from Catalonia alone expect to sell 600,000 of these cakes by the end of Holy Week.
CARAMELLES are popular Easter songs typical of Catalonia. Originally, back in the 16th century, they were religious songs sung to celebrate the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nowadays they include many secular songs. Rather like carol singers, Caramellaires (the singers), go round the streets in groups, often accompanied by instrumentalists. They stop under the balconies of friends and neighbours to sing to them. Then they pass up a basket bedecked with ribbons and attached to the end of a long pole so that those on the balcony can make donations of eggs or sausages or money. These donations are used by the group for a communal meal, either that evening or a few days later. In some places the singers also dance between songs.
(Much of this information was gleaned from the section on Festivals in the quirky, and very informative book: Andorra Revealed).