Make or lose a lot of money with this Spanish Good Friday tradition

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Good Friday

During Semana Santa in Spain, unique traditions are expressed in different regions. From the distribution of sweets by Nazarenos in Murcia to the age-old practice of self-flagellation in San Vicente de la Sonsierra.

But in the province of Ciudad Real there is a special Good Friday tradition that can both fill and empty the wallet. It concerns the ‘Juego de las Caras’ or ‘The Game of Heads or Tails’.

A gambling game with historical roots

The ‘Juego de las Caras’ is mainly celebrated in villages with roots in the Reconquista by the Order of Calatrava. The highlight of the game is in the village of Calzada de Calatrava. The origins of El Juego de las Caras go back to Roman times and the first Good Friday. The Romans are said to have stripped Jesus of his clothes to play dice. A second hypothesis is that Judas gambled with the thirty coins with which he delivered Christ. Finally, a third hypothesis speaks of the Roman soldiers who paid coins for Jesus’ tunic to be auctioned. That is why this game is only played on Good Friday.

Betting money on Good Friday

Every Good Friday, residents and visitors of the villages in question come together to donate money. The town halls and local bars provide a large circular playing field. This is drawn with chalk on the village square or a circular structure is created. That playing field forms ‘the bank’ where the players bet their money. With bills placed under rocks or beer bottles to prevent them from blowing away, the bank doubles the bet of each player on the ground.

Cogesa Expats

The tension reaches a fever pitch when the bank tosses two coins into the air. Then follows a breathless silence awaiting the result. In case of ‘heads and tails’ the coins are tossed again. But in ‘heads and heads’ the bank wins and in ‘tails and tails’ the players win. They pick up their doubled bet from the ground.

From profit to procession

The game rounds continue until late in the evening until most participants go to watch the procession. Some will view the sacred images with more money in their pockets than they started the day with, despite a day of eating and drinking in the local bars. Others lose more than expected.

The ‘Juego de las Caras’ in Calzada de Calatrava has been recognised as a ‘Festival of Regional Tourist Interest’ since 1993. The game is also celebrated in villages such as Puertollano, Almagro, and Almodóvar del Campo.

Also read: Semana Santa in Malaga is sacred to Antonio Banderas

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