And all for free!
The people of Denia enjoy nothing better than to dress up, and throw a party for all comers.
Please enjoy the racket and weirdness of these, often, incomprehensible events, by watching our shaky video at the end of this piece.
Three Kings Festival. The first, or maybe the second Sunday of January.
This festival celebrates the time the the Magi found the baby Christ in a manger and offered gifts. Each of The Three Kings, Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar, is mounted on a be-throned float. The local children can identify and name each King, something we cannot do.
The Kings and their minions bombard any children they see, with huge amounts of boiled sweets which are gathered up with gusto and cries of “Aqui!”. These beaming children accumulate carrier bags full of sweets which they struggle to carry away. This year, we were told that the sweets have had to be a softer variety as hard sweets can hurt little children. That made us laugh.
Animal Blessing. Around the 20th January.
A ramshackle affair, that assembles very slowly and, on this occasion, set off about 2 hours late. The parade wends its’ way around the town, gathering more and more animals along the way, and comes to rest in a local church for a blessing.
Walking With The Madonna. 2nd Sunday in Feb.
It was just another Sunday Morning in Denia and we stumbled upon this little spectacle. Why here? We do not know. How often? No idea. Have we seen it since? No, sadly.
Moors and Christians. About the last weekend in February, but practicing lasts for weeks.
This shuffle-fest commemorates the time the Moors (Muslim diaspora) left Spain. Near the Port is a cement pavement with prints of naked feet walking towards the sea; a poignant reminder of unstable times.
The tradition has teams of all Moors, or all Christians, never a mixture, marching in line, to their own band and strutting, baton twirling/sword weilding leader. Every team has an elaborate uniform. Cigars, held and smoked ostentatiously, are an important feature. Star Wars is a more recent addition! See video.
Why this festival takes on this line upon line of linked armed, shuffling was a complete mystery. Why there were no mixed Moor and Christian, or mixed gender teams, was also a complete mystery. And why it takes a month of practicing in the streets before culminating in a full day event; we have not a clue.
World Feminist Day: Saturday 8th March 2019.
A group of girls form a human tower; with the help of men. You could not make it up. Did it represent the heights all women must go to so that just one of them might get high enough to put a crack in that glass ceiling? It is anyones guess.
Fallas: Culminated 19th March in 2019.
This double themed festival lasts for weeks. A mixture of May Queen ( in UK terms) where everyone gets to be Royal for the day, and an ultra artistic Bonfire night. The final big parade of fabulously dressed locals and their children, the assembling of the massive, sacrificial tableaux, the fireworks and the bonfires are held over one day and night.
This whole event is a sensory overload, with the two festivals rolled into one. Again, we have no idea what was going on, or why. The Spring equinox Pagan tradition, with flowers to the virgin, all makes sense. Burning paper mâché effigies on town centre cross roads, is, to put it mildly, nuts.
The bonfire part of the Fallas festival. Each area of the town makes a display, some massive, others modestly sized and places it in the heart of their district. After judging, the best model is saved from the flames for future exhibitions; the rest are reduced to ashes, one gorgeous display at a time. The burnings last until the small hours of the morning.
The ‘May Queen’ style event. Men and women, babies, girls and boys, all parade through every district of the town, passing each of the tableaux in turn. Once all the exhibits have been visited, each person then collects and carries a bunch of white or red carnations through the town centre. A wood framed Madonna, built outside a local church, is carefully, tenderly, stuffed with the bunches of carnations by the processions of Fallas participants. These people must walk miles during this progress.
St Juans Day. Third weekend of June – summer solstice.
Starts after dark. The beach cafe has food and live flamenco music, where the locals dance a parred down, deeply sensuous flamenco. Most people eat al fresco on the sandy beach, beside small bonfires. People swim. It is over by about 11pm. The next morning all evidence has gone. It is as if all was a beautiful mid summer nights dream.
This Denia festival tradition has been a revelation to us. When hanging around in a Catholic country, everybody anticipates Mardi Gras and The Day of The Dead celebrations. We had no idea that the culture here is to lurch from one festival to another, month in, month out. To maintain their high standards, despite the turn over rate of festival themes, each area of town has its’ own Festival Committee. How they find the time, creative energy and money for all of this is a complete mystery to us. We wish we could bottle this lazy, productive lifestyle, apart from the Bull Running, which we boycotted on principal. Obviously terrified bulls and crazed running men won’t make it into the virtual bottle, but everything else will.