Andalusian Spring comes early, bring on the fiestas!

Winters in Andalusia are as mild as they come, and the sense of the spring season seems to linger for half of the year. The sun bathes this southernmost region of Spain for more than 300 cloudless days each year, giving Andalusia bragging rights for mainland Europe’s best climate. Spaniards have a definite penchant for celebrating any and all occasions, and the temperate climes only help to facilitate a seemingly endless string of fiestas.

In reality, springtime sees the unofficial launch of the festival season. There’s a spattering of carnival celebrations and the odd cultural or religious fair in late winter, though the famed Semana Santa processions in the week leading up to Easter always kick off the season in earnest. From then through summer and autumn pass a stream of festivals celebrating culture, gastronomy, saints and traditions across virtually every tiny village and capital city alike.

So dig out your short sleeves and leave the cold of winter behind to jump start Spring and the colourful, rich traditions of the Andalusian festival season. Here you find a brief sample of the upcoming events across the region; but never fear, once the season gains momentum you’ll find some celebration or another around every corner.

“Semana Santa” the Holy Week, 24-31 March

All across Andalusia and Spain

The “holy week” leading up to Easter Sunday is easily the biggest and most important celebration in all of Spain each year, and nowhere are they more serious about it than in Andalusia, with Malaga and Seville putting on particularly spectacular weeklong events. Each dioceses and every town or city has numerous religious associations represented throughout the Semana Santa. Each has its day when they make their slow and sombre march through the streets, their numbers in the hundreds.

If you witness nothing more than one of these distinctly coloured, hooded and robed “cofradias” lumbering under the massive weight of the ornately decoratd floats (or tronos), it will have been worth your visit. Those carrying the tronos, which depict biblical scenes and venerations of the Virgin Mary, consider it a great honour, and many pay handsomely for the right. Others walk blindfolded, self-flagilate, or otherwise demonstrate their passion and contrition along the way. This is serious business, but despite the gravity of the processions this is still Andalusia, where an opportunity for a party never slips by unheeded.

“Dia de la Morcilla”, Black Pudding Day, 29 April

Canillas de Aceituno, Malaga

One of the more quaint and amusing of the springtime gastronomic festivals, the small but historic white washed village of Canillas de Aceituno kicks of the season with an ode to the humble blood sausage, one of the specialties of this little mountain pueblo. They tear through a literal tonne of the stuff within a matter of a few hours, all washed down with copious amounts of beer and wine served on the cramped central plaza. You have to be early to get in on the free tasting of morcilla, but never fear; the party lasts well into the night with live entertainment, games, and the unmistakable songs and dances of Andalusia. Drop into one of the restaurants for a sampling of the black pudding if you missed the public degustacion in the morning.

“Romerias” (“pilgrimages”), on or soon after the last Sunday of April

Various sites across Anadlusia

The Romerias take their name and tradition from historic Christian pilgramages destined for Rome. Like the Semana Santa processions, the Romerias include lengthy parades, though these generally cover greater distances and typically include a much more festive atmosphere altogether. The Romeria will usually end in a pre-designated destination where the proper festivities kick off and last well into the night.

Though officially religious in nature, the tradition would seem to owe much to those of the travelling gypsies, incorporating song, dance, games and other entertainment, plentiful food and drink, and general merry making that draws the entire community out to share in the revelry and strengthen common bonds. Many of the smaller villages around Andalusia will celebrate their own version of the Romeria around the end of April, while from the larger cities one never has to travel far to join the festivities. They often honour a particular patron saint and begin with an honorary mass, though as the evening light fades and the celebration runs into the early hours, it is easy to forget any religious affiliation.

“Cruz de Mayo”, the May Cross, 3 May

Various sites across Andalusia

Today the May Cross celebrations have evolved into something of a floral competition, with residents, businesses and religious associations vying for prizes awarded for the most beautifully decorated crosses. The origins, of course, have a more religious tenor, harking back to Saint Helen, mother of Constantinople, who sought out Jesus’ cross in Jerusalem and allegedly performed numerous miracles upon finding what was presumed to be the true cross of the crucifixion, according to legend. The coastal town of Nerja has an impressive display for its size, while Cordoba, with its affinity for floral displays and competitions, is the best place to witness the modern, festive celebration of the May Cross.

The Patios Festival of Cordoba, 1 – 13 May

Cordoba City

The May Cross competition is something of a warm up for the true floral fair overtaking the city of Cordoba each May, and this year they actually overlap. Here individual residents of the city open up their private, exquisitely adorned courtyard displays to the public, competing for recognition and prizes. Local businesses, governmental offices and historic sites also join the action, creating an impression that this ancient city all but drips with flowers and colour, as the breeze delights with the scents of Eden.

Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto. Cortijo el Carligto is a private Andalucían hideaway and luxury rental estate in the hills of Malaga, Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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