Festivals & Folklore in Costa Blanca

The Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) fiesta is the Alicante region’s celebration par excellence. During the different times of year when festivities are held in those towns that keep this tradition alive, thousands of people are involved. Dressed in lavish costumes, they participate in parades, posturing and swaggering bravado, dances, swashbuckling displays and mock battles, and all this to the sound of raucous music, the thunderous din of arquebuses and acrid smell of gunpowder.

Alcoy in April is the capital of this tradition of bloodless struggle between two opposing bands: the Moors who were expelled from Spain after seven centuries of occupation and the Christians, who extended their territory and customs. Each town adds its particular touch to the fiesta: in Villajoyosa, the forces arrive by sea; in Biar, the effigy of Mohammed is borne aloft as a standard, and in Alicante’s San Blas Quarter the entire neighbourhood takes part. Most of these processions are held after dark.

With the arrival of the summer solstice, Alicante’s streets fill with artistically contrived cardboard figures destined to be cast into the flames on St. John’s Day, to the explosive accompaniment of fireworks. Using commonplace scenes, the bonfires, known as las Hogueras (or in Valencian as, les fogueres de Sant Joan) satirise the life of the city, its streets becoming a permanent source of entertainment in the form of typical barracas (makeshift booths), parades and lively processions.

Other rites of fire include the Fallas Fiesta in March, typified by Valencia’s St. Joseph’s Day festivities yet also celebrated in Denia and Benidorm.

In the Alicante locality, festivities reach a peak with the staging of the Misteri in the city of Elche on the eve and day of 15th August. Undeniably part of the heritage of mankind, the play is a cultural relic, with the drama of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary unfolding to the accompaniment of medieval music and song, presenting the audience with a work that is at once religious and musical.

Religious traditions are likewise in evidence in their full splendour and brilliance in the Easter Week processions held in Orihuela and Crevillente, the Passion Play produced in Callosa de Segura and Altea, and the re-enactment of the story of the Three Magi in Cañada.

One further date on the Costa Blanca fiesta calendar is the spectacle known as toros a la mar or bous a la mar (bulls by the sea) held on the Denia quayside.

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