Alicante City - Fiestas and Culture
The City of Alicante won't leave you short changed when it comes to fiestas! This region has deep-rooted traditions, many of which are celebrated in grand style and although based mainly on religious celebrations, generally these days a fiesta is a great excuse to eat, drink and be merry. But don't expect an amateur affair…much planning, organising and skill goes into arranging many of the events with the result being a spectacular experience that you really wouldn't want to miss. The Spanish love an excuse to dress up, let off fireworks and party, so expect most of these fiestas to keep you occupied for quite a few days!
Hogueras de San Juan (St John's Bonfires)
This fiesta has actually been declared to be of International Tourist Interest - so that gives you an idea of how spectacular it is! Being linked to the summer solstice it is held in June and is possibly the most famous fiesta held in the city. Based on the custom of burning useless objects to welcome in the summer it is also linked with the feast day of John the Baptist.
It's a week-long celebration which includes firework competitions, a medieval market, marching bands, dancing competitions and much more. For months before the celebration elaborate papier maché statues are painstakingly created often depicting the humorous side of politicians or Spanish historical characters. These statues and the floats that carry them really have to be seen to be believed, so intricate are the designs, however they are ceremoniously burned in a spectacular bonfire held at midnight on St Johns Night following a fabulous firework display from the top of Mount Benacantil.
Be prepared for a few late nights with this one!
Moors and Christians
If you want to feel like you're on a film set with soldiers in fabulous costumes taking part in mock battles then this is the one for you! It's an age-old festivity commemorating the battles undertaken between the Christians and the Moors during the reconquest of the area. Although you can witness the same fiesta in the surrounding towns, the most impressive by far is in the city where the celebration takes place in a riot of colour, noise…and yes… more fireworks!
Flags and hangings decorate the balconies of the city, the 'teams' of Moors and Christians each try to out do each other with their elaborate period costumes and the town comes alive with this re-enactment. In Alicante it starts early, all the townsfolk are awakened by the dianas and then head to the centre of the city to await the teams of Moors and Christians. Mock battles then ensue, with many humorous retreats from both sides, cannily these retreats allow time to eat and drink before the fighting resumes! Finally the Christians win, surrounding the Moors and giving them the choice of conversion or death. Then it's off to celebrate! It’s a fun filled day that is great for all the family.
Everyone knows about Carnival, but its not just in Rio that it's celebrated in style, in Alicante even the street benches are decorated for this fiesta! Held in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday (usually February), this is a street party that all ages take part in. The processions down La Rambla are full of colour, life and music and defy you not to join in! With magnificent floats, dance routines and costumes that have been worked on for months, just make sure you have your camera at the ready. You don't have to travel to South America to experience a fantastic street carnival, buy yourself an ornate face mask from the carnival shop or don a fancy dress costume and get yourself ready to party!
Semana Santa (Holy Week)
Over 8 days (from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday) a total of 27 brotherhoods take part in processions where floats or effigies (called pasos) are carried through the streets of the city to represent the journey made by Christ to crucifixion and through to resurrection. This is a deeply religious occasion and many of the pasos are authentic masterpieces by famous Spanish artists. The processions have Roman soldiers in authentic costumes, local women dressed in traditional Spanish costume and everywhere is the scent from the beautiful fresh flowers that adorn each float. Worthy of particular mention is the procession of the Holy Cross because it ascends the very steep narrow streets in the old quarter and the Santa Cena (Holy Supper) float, as it's the largest in Spain and has to be carried by 208 porters.
Although the processions are solemn, the fiesta is a wonderful experience, if only to take in the amount of floral decoration around the city. Finally on the last day there are concerts and exhibitions to see and the last procession ends on a upbeat note of songs and hallelujahs!
Well, those are the main fiestas, but in Alicante there is practically one every month, so if you have the energy here is a quick mention about others you may like to experience.
The Pilgrimage of the Holy Visage (Santa Faz)
Considered to be the second most important pilgrimage in Spain (the first taking place in Andalucia). Up to 200,000 people, dressed in peasant clothing, walk to the Monastery of Santa Faz to worship at the shrine. There are picnic lunches, craft markets and fairs held all week. The fiesta is held the Thursday following Easter Week.
Cruces de Mayo (May Crosses)
A fabulous floral fiesta takes place in May in Alicante city. The delightful area of Santa Cruz literally dresses up in flowers. All along the streets, crosses made of fresh flowers are displayed, with the best designs winning awards. The air is full of the wonderful perfume from a multitude of flowers and it is lovely to stroll along in the warm evenings and marvel at the skills of the flower arrangers.
Virgen del Carmen (The Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt Carmel)
Held on July 16th this sailors' celebration gives thanks to their patron. It’s a real maritime fiesta with the boats being lovingly decorated, but to see the best of the processions, catch the boat to the nearby island of Tarbaca.
Virgen del Remedio (Our Lady of Remedy)
This is the Patron Saint of Alicante City and a feast is held on August 5th each year to honour her. Ancient choral services are held, along with processions carrying the image of the virgin and down on the port, the summer festival with live music and performances, also in her honour, is in full swing throughout the month of July and August.
This is a lovely fiesta for children and adults alike. Held over the first 10 days in December, the International puppet festival is one of the finest events in the world and attracts thousands of visitors to the city. Launched in 1984 it gives you the opportunity to watch performances from puppeteers from across the globe. It’s a lovely fun filled occasion and gives you the chance to experience the best on offer in this endearing art form.
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