This Saturday, Xàbia enjoys its annual Carnaval
celebrations with two special fancy dress parades through the streets of the
historic centre, the first for the younger members of the community and the
second, later in the evening, for the grown-ups who will be able to dance into
the early hours in the Plaza de la Constitución. It’s a symbolic event for
some, the start of almost six weeks of moderation. For others, it’s a party
extraordinaire, a chance to dress up and have a little fun with friends.
Carnaval is a Christian festive event which precedes the
season of Lent, the 40 day period before Easter. It is usually marked by
excess, over-consumption before the abstinence, before adherents fast and give
up certain luxuries. The name ‘carnaval’ is said to have been derived from the
Latin expression “carne levare” which
broadly means “farewell to meat”, signifying the approaching period of that
fasting. In recent years it has become more synonymous with grand gala parades
such as that in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, often dubbed “the Greatest Show on
Earth” which attracts some two million people each day.
The biggest carnival in Spain take place in the Canary
Islands in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, considered the second most popular after Rio
so it’s no surprise that it is twinned with the Brazilian city. Its origins lay
back in the 17th century and it is so popular that it is broadcast on national
television. Click here
for a short video about the event. On the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria
the Carnival of Las Palmas is just as big and there were even controversial proposals
to join the two.
On the mainland, one of the oldest pre-Indo-European
carnivals in Europe takes place in Navarre in the villages of Ituren and
Zubieta at the end of January and symbolises the eternal struggle between the
forces of good and evil, between light and darkness, winter and spring. Men dress
in sheepskins and colourful conical hats with ribbons then march through the
village with whips and large cow bells strapped to their bodies which ring in a
solemn almost threatening rhythm. The rest of the villagers dress up as witches
and demons and scatter as the young men approach. Click here for a great video
about this ancient carnival tradition.
The carnival of Cádiz is also one of the best known in
Spain which dates back to the 16th century and has a more Italian flavour. It
is now an event marked by its determination to face the big problems of the day
through sarcasm and irony rather than stress the glamour of the costumes. The Carnaval de Solsano in Catalonia is one of the
longest, lasting for more than a week, and it best known for the hanging of a
stuffed donkey from the top of the church bell tower. Legend has that a donkey
was once lifted to the top of the tower because it wanted to eat the grass at
the top. Now the locals, known as ‘mattarrucs’ – the “donkey killers” – haul a
stuffed version up the side of the tower – which then relieves itself on the
crowd by use of a water pump! Click here for a great video
that explains all.
Here in the Comunidad Valenciana, the Carnaval de Vinaròs
has been declared an event of Regional Touristic Interest after once being
prohibited. There is a great costume parade, dancing and singing as well as a
confetti and flour battle and it all ends with the “Entierro de la Sardina” –
the “Funeral of the Sardine” – which is a final procession which concludes with
the burning of a symbolic figure, usually crafted into the shape of a sardine.
Through this act, the excesses of the carnival are destroyed.
Whilst Xàbia lays on more modest celebrations, one of the
biggest carnivals in our region takes place in Pego and people travel to the
town from all over to enjoy its celebrations which include a children’s parade
during the morning, an adult’s parade in the evening and dancing and music well
into the early hours.
Click here for more information about this year’s event
in Xàbia >>