An incredible facet of Spanish life that I was not expecting to find is the glorification of Sunday as a day of rest. During my preparations for this trip I was told time and time again how Catholic the region is. I mentally prepared myself for long catholic services in a foreign language, thousands of magnificent cathedrals and the crucifix greeting me upon the arrival to every room. In my limited knowledge, this was what extremely catholic meant, and I was wrong.
The Spanish have embraced their catholic roots in a more cultural way than I imagined. The gorgeous cathedrals are, actually, still active places of worship and not some tourist attraction due to their antiquity. Many Sunday mass services completely fill up an hour or 30 minutes before the service starts, and Sunday is a day of rest.
Now, I consider myself a fairly religious person. My parents have raised me with Sunday church as a central part of our week. I look forward to waking up on Sundays, reading the paper, and going to church. At school it’s the one time a week that I am able to see my family, and I really enjoy it. However, I’ve never actually considered Sunday a day of rest. I take my hour for church, then it’s right to Starbucks to finish my homework, out to lunch with my family or friends, to the latest movie that I’ve been dying to see or to the store or mall to get something I need (or more likely something that I want). Sunday’s are just another day of the week. They are busy and hectic.
In Spain, Sundays are silent. Nothing, and I mean nothing is open but cafes for breakfast and coffee. The streets are full of families in their Sunday’s finest coming or going or lingering in the cafes. The grocery stores, gyms, bars and restaurants, book, clothing and technology stores are all closed. Walking down a main strip, the majority of the store fronts remained bared and closed from the night before. Sundays are for reflection, religion, family and preparation for the week ahead. This is probably because Catholicism has been so central to Spanish politics, culture, and history for so long.
What a good idea. Leaving Sundays wide open without the burden or work (I worked on Sundays as a telemarketer, and as a waitress) allows for more time for personal reflection and a closer connection with God. I feel this way and I have yet to attend an actual church service, which I hope to do within the next few weeks. I have however been able to have good conversations with friends and family because there’s nowhere to rush to and nothing pressing to do. A day of rest improves personal relationships, health, and spirituality, and it’s something that our culture should learn.