One of the most notable differences between life in Spain and life in the UK is the bewildering amount of festivals and public holidays in the Spanish calendar. To somebody raised outside Spain, it can seem that every other day some festival or other is taking place. In fact, in any given year, there are more than twenty public holidays throughout the country, some of which are only celebrated in certain regions while others are nationwide. Below is Sonneil’s list of the five best festivals to be enjoyed on the Costa Blanca.
Moros and Christians
The festival of Moors and Christians celebrates the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic monarchy after 700 years of Muslim rule in 1492. The reconquest is celebrated annually throughout Spain, but the cities of Valencia and Alicante have a particularly strong association with the tradition. Locals dress as either Moors or Christians for the occasion and re-enact battles. The two groups fight it out in the streets, which are filled with noise and smoke, watched by thousands of spectators. In contrast, in mid-August, Dénia celebrates the festival of Moors and Christians as a tribute to the coexistence of cultures, highlighting the virtues of tolerance and multiculturalism.
The fires of St. John (Fuegos de Sant Juan) announce the arrival of summer. At midnight, the city of Alicante offers a magnificent firework display and papier-mâché statues are burned during a ceremony called the Cremá de la Hoguera. In the afternoon, everyone heads to the beach to share a picnic and barbecue grilled sardines or meat. This is followed by the customary midnight swim, which is said to wash away bad luck and invite good fortune.
The Costa Blanca celebrates the famous Las Fallas festival in March, during which giant satirical statues of celebrities or politicians are carried in procession through the streets before being burned. It is the most important festival of the Valencian community and attracts thousands of tourists each year. While Valencia itself has the most spectacular Fallas celebrations, there are also festivities in Benidorm, Calpe, Denia, and Gandia among others.
Carnival is perhaps most famously associated with Brazil; however it is in fact widely celebrated throughout the Latin world, including the Costa Blanca. Starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday in the Christian calendar, Carnival serves as one last blowout of excess and debauchery before the austerity of Lent. In Benidorm, where the biggest parade takes place, thousands of people turn out to watch the giant decorated floats and dance to the marching bands.
This is one of the most anticipated days of the year for children as it is when the Three Wise Men come bearing gifts. At this time of the year the streets are still decorated with Christmas lights, and the squares are filled with Nativity scenes carol singers. On the night of the epiphany, January 6, The Three Kings arrive on their camels loaded with presents and throw sweets and treats out to the thousands of children assembled along the parade route. Experiencing this deeply rooted Spanish tradition is an absolute must.