Festival of the Month – Near Death Festival

What will do if you just had a close brush with death?

1)    Thank God that you are spared.
2)    Ignore the whole incident and move on.
3)    Live life with more passion realizing the value of it.
4)    Get into a coffin and with the help of your relatives and travel to the nearest religious place in a procession.

Hey, that’s definitely not fun! Who would want to travel around in a coffin after such a narrow shave with Mr. Death?

Sorry. The Spaniards do. With all devotion.

Yeah, today (June 29), as you read this story if you are anywhere near the town of Las Nieves in Spain, just look out of the window to watch one of the weirdest religious spectacles in the world – the Near Death festival of Spain. The streets will be one long procession of coffins, all flowing to the cemetery of a church.

Scores of devotees travel to the church of Santa Marta De Riberteme – the sister of Mary Magdalene and patron saint of resurrection – today. They go not in buses, cabs or chariots, but inside coffins.

But why should they travel in coffins? It is belief sir.

Have you had any near-death experience during the last year? If yes, you may call a coffin. Bring your family along as your pall bearers. Now leap in. But if you don’t have any relatives to carry the burden things get a bit complicated. Now you have to lug your own coffin all the way to the cemetery.

During the procession your ears will be filled by the chant: “Virgin Santa Marta, Star of the North, we bring those who saw death.”

The roadsides will be dotted with stalls selling different paraphernalia from plastic angels to statuettes of Santa Maria in a variety of colours. Hawkers from different parts of Spain have already landed on the town to try their luck in the festival. Want to dig your hands into Spanish food? The wayside eateries do a flourishing trade now. Try octopus cooked in copper cauldrons which is a festive favourite.

The voice of mass from the church, the brilliant fireworks going on in the background, and the spectacle of coffins carrying the ‘undead’ with gypsy brass bands closely following, are sure to instill a vague terror in your minds.

Amidst the hue and cry of the ceremony don’t miss the cultural, philosophical and religious undertones whispering in a deep baritone in the background.

Once you reach the cemetery you must bestow offerings and gifts upon the statue of Santa Marta. You must thank her for keeping death at a distance. A special mass is held in the small church and is played through loudspeakers to the gathering devotees who cannot squeeze themselves into the church.

If you know Spanish you will know how deep the ambiance is seeped with death, with people talking about their experiences with the Grim Reaper.

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About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 288 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

3 Responses to Festival of the Month – Near Death Festival

  1. interesting ritual…. 🙂

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  2. the “octopus cooked in copper cauldrons” made my mouth watery. that too when im sitting in the hostel room without taking dinner. any explanation about food is making me go crazy now.

    yeah now i remember i too had a near death experience. in fact two. i chose 1. thank god im spared. i would like to go for 4 also..:)

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  3. I thought I knew my strange Spanish traditions… but this is a surprise! Awesome.

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