Semana Santa is coming up, and I need to take the opportunity to point out that Spain is not a very religious country, because many people from elswhere who come to visit, seem to think the opposite. During Franco´s dictatorship Spain was a very Catholic country, but after more than 3 decades of democracy: no, not anymore.
Most things that the Church used to oppose to are now legal and accepted here: Divorce and contraceptives, abortion, the acceptance of drug possession for personal consumption, premarital sex, and so on. Gay marriage became legal as early as 2005 compared to 2008 in Sweden. The impression of Spain being a catholic country is a remnant of the dictatorship. Spain today is also tolerant in other unexpected ways. For example, the use of programs to download music for personal consumption is not a punishable offense. And this is just one example of a legislative system where, when faced with choices that involve tolerance vs restriction, tolerance is the norm.
While religion is losing its power, the meaning of global traditional events that exist due to religious backgrounds are changing. Festivities which originated with religious (or even pagan) reason are turning more and more into events with strictly a cultural meaning. This shift is very clear in Spain. The processions during Semana Santa, i.e., are still as important as they were in the past. But it’s more about the music, the smell, the statues, the costumes, the candles, the family, the show - everything. It is tradition, and of course it has a deep impact on everybody, religious or not.
So, enjoy the festivities, and don’t worry if you’re don’t feel you are religious enough. Many people on the streets are just like you. They are there to enjoy the Fiesta.
Do NOT try to drive a car into Malaga during Semana Santa. Or, if you do need to, DO NOT park anywhere central. It might look just fine by midday, but the parking structures close at 5 p.m. By nightfall the streets will be closed off and packed with anticipating pedestrians and one procession after another. You will need to get a police escort to get your car full of kids and grandkids out from the inner city. I know this from first hand experience.