Fiestas in Andalucia mean PARTY TIME. Whatever the reason behind the event, be it religious or otherwise,
the end result is always the same - lots of music and dancing, drinking and eating and general fun and frolics usually until dawn over a period of several days to a week.
Over 3,000 fiestas are celebrated every year in Andalucia including fairs, carnivals, degustacions, passion plays, pilgrimages and processions. Every village, no matter
how small, holds at least one fiesta a year.
|Carnival is celebrated before the 40 days of Lent each year, centred around Shrove Tuesday. Most towns
hold a parade with floats and a Carnival Queen contest, either the weekend before or after, and large towns have festivities lasting all week.
People dress up in costume and masks and up to a week of festivities including street music, dances and competitions are held.
Carnival is very much a fiesta of the people. As elsewhere in the Catholic world, it originated as a reaction against abstentations and
prohibitions. Carnival attempts to break social order and liberalise instincts, helped by wearing masks and fancy dress. During the Civil War, General
Franco abolished carnival in rebel areas.
EASTER WEEK (Semana Santa):
Semana Santa is celebrated during the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Easter Monday, although a Bank Holiday in
many countries including Gibraltar, is not celebrated in Spain.
Easter week processions compete with each other for splendour. Parades leave town churches to wend
slowly through the streets carrying statues of Christ on the cross and the Virgin Mary in mourning. Religious brotherhoods (Hermandades) representing
guilds of tradesman, in elaborate robes often with high pointed cowls covering their faces, carry the very heavy statues with a slow rocking gait
accompanied by drum beat, incense and candles. The Costa towns and villages are full of pageantry and music whilst Malaga,
famous for the size and grandeur of its processions, virtually comes to a standstill and is one of the best places to observe these rites. Apart from
parading through the streets of their towns, the local brotherhoods hold exhibitions of their paraphernalia and possessions.
In some towns and villages passion plays are enacted at this time. Within Axarquia Moclinejo
holds a passion play on Good Friday, and Riogordo holds a series of these plays throughout the week.
The name for these local pilgrimages is derived from the traditional walk to Rome. These days the pilgrimages to popular shrines
are a very colourful and lively procession on foot, by gaily decorated cart and wagon and on horseback. On reaching the shrine, and often preceeded by those
who have travelled by car, a huge fiesta is held.
The World Dance festival is held every May in Malaga. For one Saturday night the port area is turned into a massive
dance venue with more than 100,000 people enjoying live international dance music.
The fair of San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, is held on the 15th May. Isodor was an 11th century ploughman famous for his gift of divining
water. Romerias often pass through fields, and fiestas incorporate agricultural tradeshows. One of the best in Axarquia is held in
Nerja where the procession leaves from the town and winds it way to a hermitage at the Nerja caves for an
enourmously popular fiesta that began with fireworks on the evening of the 14th.
The feast of San Juan is on the 24th June but celebrations are held leading up to and on the night of the 23rd June, coinciding with the
summer solstice, the shortest night of the year and midsummer. It is associated with fire and magic and has clear pagan origins. It is celebrated on the
beaches with huge bonfires, barbeques (particularly moragas - a sardine barbeque), fireworks and campouts. For good luck, people paddle or swim in the sea
just after midnight. An old ritual, still adhered to, is to wash the face and feet three times in order to be granted three wishes and for a happy twelve
months thereafter. Bathing at this time is also said to be beneficial for skin complaints. Traditionally the Spanish did not visit the beach until this day
in each year.
The fiesta of the Virgen del Carmen, the protectress of seamen, is held on the 16th July. In the evening, each town and
village on the coast parades their statue of the virgin by the sea before placing her on a boat for a night sail. The boat is brightly decorated and
accompanied by other gay fishing and leisure craft, blowing their horns, during her annual adventure. On her return she is paraded once more along the
seafront whilst firework displays light the skies. Within Axarquia good places to view, and accompany if wished, are at Nerja, Caleta de Velez
(just outside of Torre del Mar) and Benajarafe. Estepona also puts on a good show.
Every town and village in Andalucia has its own summer fair. These can take place at any time after Easter until October. Even a
'day' fair can last a week with all local shops, businesses and streets closed. Tables and chairs are set up in the streets and music plays from
every corner. People of all ages join the singing, dancing and revelry. Traditional fairgrounds with rides for children are set up on the outskirts
of the town and, along with live music shows, will be open until the very wee hours of the morning.
An example of a larger summer fair is the Feria de Malaga. This annual nine day August fair is launched by a huge fireworks display on
the opening Friday. From late morning until about 19.00h, celebrations overwhelm the city centre with music and dancing in the packed streets and bars,
whilst horses and riders in costume parade around the streets. At night the action switches to the very large feria site at Cortijo de Torres, 4
kilometres south-west of the centre. Here there are fairground rides and a lot more music and dancing with live groups performing rock, pop, reggae,
flamenco and other music until dawn.
The fiesta of San Miguel, incorporating cattle fairs, is held on the 29th September. Within Axarquia these are
held at Alfarnatejo and Velez-Malaga.
Vendimias (grape harvests) are celebrated during late August and September. The event is often accompanied by a fiesta.
Competa hosts a 'Night of Wine' every August 15th.
All Saints Day is celebrated on the 1st November with fiestas called Tosantos. Prior to the festivities, cemeteries
are packed with families paying homage to their dead.
The feast of San Martin is held in mountain villages and towns on the 11th November with fiestas called matanzas. It is a time for
slaughtering pigs in preparation for winter drying of hams, sausages and black pudding. The feast does indeed include a lot of eating and drinking. An
annual fiesta in Canillas de Acietuno in April each year, at which time the black pudding is ready,
is also celebrated.
Las Navidades (Christmas) of course commences with La Nochebuena (Christmas Eve). It is celebrated as a family feast and midnight mass.
After leaving church, children let off bangers and people sing carols in rowdy tours around the streets. Crude percussion instruments (zambombas), unique
to Christmas, are played. These instruments are made from flower pots with goat skin stretched over the top and a hole punched through. A wetted stick is
rubbed up and down through the hole making a sound reminiscent of a tuba. Traditionally children waited until Los Reyes for their presents but, as customs
change, they now hope for presents on both occassions.
The Fiesta Mayor de Verdiales is held every 28th December in Malaga. Thousands gather at Puerto de la Torre at the north-west of the city
to dance and listen to a grand gathering of verdiales groups. This is an exhilarating type of folk music and dance, unique to the Malaga area, but sounding
similar to Celtic/Gypsy music.
La Noche Vieja (New Year's Eve) on the 31st December is celebrated with a feast, either out in a restaurant or luxury home fare. At midnight
twelve lucky grapes (las uvas de la Suerte) are eaten, one by one, for each chime. To manage this means a lucky year. The grapes are washed down by Cava, the
Spanish equivalent of Champagne, and celebrations continue until daylight.
The Fiesta de los Reyes, the fiesta of kings, is held on the 6th January and is the official time for Spanish children to receive their
Christmas presents. Three men dress as kings to parade the streets on mule or horse back scattering sweets to excited children. The effect of this date of
celebration means that the Christmas period in Spain is a long one lasting from Christmas Eve, through Cristmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day to the