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Religious festivals = ragers in the streets

Filed in Blog, Spain by on June 2, 2014

If Spain knows how to do one thing, it’s celebrate. And it seems like there’s another festival every week. I’m going to try to give you an idea of these crazy experiences over the past semester: Carnaval, Las Fallas, Semana Santa and Santa Faz.

Carnaval

This one was back in February and is pretty much Spain’s version of Mardi Gras (celebrated on that Tuesday before Lent), but looks more like a cross between that and Halloween. People take Carnaval seriously. Kids and adults alike dress up in full-out costumes and rage in the streets literally all night long — I’m pretty sure I went home at 7:30 a.m. and there were still tons of Spanish people out. We had no idea what to expect. We all threw on some costumes (I was a butterfly) and headed to La Rambla to find huge concert stages and the entire street flooded with people dancing. It was awesome.

Small side story — when I left for my friends’ apartment to get the night started, my host mom sent me off with more food than any one human should ever consume, so I did something a little different. There are homeless people that I walk past every single day on the same street, so I went up to three or four along my usual walk and handed them muffins. The funny thing is that I was dressed in a butterfly costume that made me look like a magical fairy passing out muffins to these homeless men for Carnaval. Their reactions as they looked up at me with my full-out makeup and wings was priceless. I got told “Eres un angel” and much more.

Las Falles

This one was in March, right after my trip to Dublin. Las Falles is celebrated throughout Spain, but the really big one is in Valencia, so we spontaneously hopped on a train and went there for the night. I still don’t understand exactly what it’s celebrating and what everything symbolizes… all I know is what I saw was insane. They make giant colorful monuments (several stories tall) that represent people or events from the past year. During the day, people shoot off fireworks. All day there were huge explosions going off, like the loudest I’ve ever heard in my life, while everyone’s in the streets eating, drinking and watching parades of bands and people dressed in traditional, ornate Spanish dresses.

Then at night, there’s a huge fireworks show and then they burn down the huge displays one by one, all night long. Imagine huge crowds of people in the street watching these gigantic statue displays go up in flames until at least 4 in the morning. I have definitely never seen fire so big or anything like this at all… I didn’t have my phone for fear of being pickpocketed, so unfortunately no pics of that wild sight… but like I said before, there’s no way this would be legal in the United States. It was unbelievable, but it was awesome.

Semana Santa

Holy Week in Spain! What do you think everyone does? Party in the streets, again. It cracks me up that days that would maybe be a holy day of obligation for Catholics in the U.S. or might not be recognized at all (Holy Wednesday, for example… what is that?) are treated as nation-wide festivals. Then again, everyone in the U.S., religious or not, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to drink when that doesn’t serve nearly as much importance as, say, Good Friday… just something funny to think about.

Anyway, for Alicante, every day from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday was filled with huge parades and celebrations (although I left Thursday for our Barcelona/Italy trip). Every day there were huge processions of bands and big displays of religious scenes that people in hooded robes carried on their shoulders. Some parts were a little strange, but overall it was very interesting and pretty cool. ?They would do dances with these huge things on their shoulders, and on Wednesday night there was a part where the procession would run through the narrow streets of El Barrio all the way up to a church, like a stampede with huge Jesus figures being held in the air… like I said, very interesting to see the level of outwardly celebrated Catholicism here and crazy to compare it to the United States. Suddenly, it became very natural for all of us to want to get in the spirit, watch the processions and be where the action was.

Santa Faz

Santa Faz is just an Alicante thing, which makes it even cooler. Kinda like Las Falles, I had very little idea of what we were actually celebrating. All I know is tons of people in the city wake up early and grab a giant caƱa (cane, more like a bamboo walking stick with rosemary coming out of the top), fill a “borrowed” grocery cart with food, beer and sangria, and walk several kilometers or a few hours over to San Juan. The Camino de Santa Faz (the walk) is what makes the whole thing… it was hilarious. There are golf carts following the crowd with EDM blaring and Spanish teenagers running around and people of all ages just walking and having a good time. Surely this Santa Faz guy made a similar journey… then spent the rest of the day hanging out at San Juan beach like us.

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