Festivals and Fiestas of the Costa Blanca and Costa Calida
Find out about the most significant festivals, religious celebrations and annual events that take place in the towns and villages along the Costa Blanca and in the province of Murcia...
Spain is known for its festivals (fiestas), many of which originated in religious events but have evolved to be more general celebrations.
Every city, town and village has its own festival, which includes feasting, colourful processions, fireworks and partying.
Semana Santa - Holy Week
Easter week is the most important Catholic tradition of the year in Spain. It begins on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) and ends on Lunes de Pascua (Easter Monday).
There are street processions, with colourful confetti and a carnival atmosphere every night on the Costa Blanca, where religious icons are paraded through the streets, in re-enactments of the passion of Christ.
While celebrations take place all over the coast, noteworthy processions are:
- In Crevillent on Tuesday before Good Friday
- The Holy Burial Procession in Orihuela on Easter Saturday
- The Palm Sunday procession in Elche, which dates back to 1371
In the province of Murcia, noteworthy processions are found in Cartagena, Jumilla, Murcia and Moratalla. Other festivals include:
- The Easter fiesta in Lorca, during which a procession of citizens playing Romans, Christians and Egyptians move through the streets on elaborate floats, horseback or in chariots
- In Murcia city, Salzillo's Holy Week sculptures are paraded through the town
- The Royal Brotherhood of Our Father Jesus Resuscitated organises a single procession held in the morning of Easter Sunday to round off 10 days of procession and celebration in Cartagena
Moros y Cristianos - Moors and Christians
This festival commemorates the Reconquista, or the re-establishment of Christian rule in Spain.
Locals dress as either Moors or Christians for the occasion and re-enact battles. Costumes are spectacular and there are firework displays.
Towns celebrate Moros y Cristianos on different dates:
- The town of Alcoy and Baneres in Alicante celebrate at the end of April
- Altea celebrates in the last week of September.
- For more information contact a town's tourist office
Fiestas Patronales - Patron Saints' Days
Each town and village in Spain has a feast day to celebrate its patron saint, who is thought to protect the town. These festivities generally last one week and processions and dancing replace work - most shops and businesses close down during this period. Often giant paellas are cooked in the streets and a beauty contest runs parallel to the event.
Dates vary from place to place but local tourist offices can provide information.
All Saints' Day (Festividad de Todos los Santos)
Celebrated annually on 1 November, Todos los Santos is a national public holiday (banks and shops close) honouring the dead. Traditionally, Spanish families get together at the graves of their deceased relatives and lay down flowers. There are religious services in the churches and cemeteries over the course of the day. Specific foods are associated with this event: these may vary from region to region.
Main Festivals Along the Costa Blanca
The Hogueras de San Juan - San Juan Bonfires
An amalgamation of the ancient pagan celebration of the summer solstice, and the Christian feast of San Juan in June, which sees Hogueras (paper maché figures) placed around town. Live music and dancing take place through the night.
The culmination of the festivities is El Dia de San Juan, when a huge palm tree-shaped firework is set off from Alicante castle and simultaneously the Hogueras are set alight. A beauty contest accompanies the celebrations. Five nights of fireworks, starting at midnight, follow the fiesta.
- For more information see the Hogueras website
San Vicente Ferrer
This fiesta is one of the most important for the town of Teulada and honours the patron saint, Vincente Ferrer who was born and lived in the town. Ferrer is said to have blessed the town to protect it from the plague.
Ten days of colourful parades, live music and dancing and religious re-enactments take place in the week around 15 April.
Celebrations are also held in San Vicente del Raspeig the weekend following Easter Sunday.
- For more information, see website Teulada-Moraira
Fallas - Fire Festival
This major pyrotechnic festival takes place for five days every March and honours Saint Joseph, patron saint of carpenters.
A vast array of paper maché figures known as ninots are made. These are satirical representations of local figures (actors, bull fighters). The figures are ceremoniously stuffed with fireworks and set alight on the day known as La Crema, the festival's culmination, although one ninot is saved by popular vote and placed in the Museum of the Ninot.
There are also boisterous, daily firework contests.
Valencia has the most spectacular Fallas celebrations, but there are also festivities in Benidorm, Bunol, Calpe, Denia, Gandia, Oliva, Pego, and Sueca.
- For more information, see the Fallas website
Feria de Mayo - May Fiesta
This event in May was started by an Andalucian exile living in Torrevieja as a street party outside the bar he owned. It has now grown in popularity, staged on the Torrevieja fairground and celebrates all things Andalucian, including flamenco music, traditional costumes and Andalucian horses, which perform equestrian displays.
There are many stalls serving sherry, tapas and the ever-present churros y chocolate. Many well-known Spanish artists come to perform traditional music.
Main Festivals Along the Costa Calida
International Jazz Festival in San Javier
A celebration of international jazz held annually in the months of June and July in San Javier. This event brings together famous jazz acts from around the world.
- For more information, see the San Javier Jazz website
Festival of the Holy Cross Caravaca (Fiestas de la Santisima Cruz de Caravaca)
This festival celebrates the arrival of the Holy Reliquary in 1232 in Caravaca de la Cruz, when the town adopted the Catholic faith. The festival spans four days in the beginning of May. There is a special mass, followed by a riderless horse race (caballos de vino) to the castle, mock skirmishes and processions of Moors and Christians.
Epiphany is marked with plays and processions in Aledo and Churro in the province of Murcia. There are plays and processions all over Spain, and there are important performances in Aledo and Churro in Murcia. The three kings Melchor, Gasper and Balthazar distribute the gifts on 6 January.
Burial of the Sardine (Entierro de la Sardina)
This festival signals the climax of the April Spring Festival. There is a procession of 20 Sardinero-themed floats, giant (gigantes) and big-head (cabezudos) characters, torch-bearers, entertainers, demons and Brazilian samba groups. Afterwards, toys are distributed among the crowd. The night before the sardine burial, Ms Sardine reads a testament at the town hall.
At the close of the festival, a giant effigy of the Lenten sardine is hit with fireworks until it catches fire.
- For more information see the Murcia Turistica website
Aguilas Carnival (Carnaval de Águilas)
The carnival takes place a fortnight before the start of Lent in Águilas. Carnival groups unveil their costumes on Sunday and parades take place until Shrove Tuesday. Visitors can also sample local food and drink.
- Further details can be found at the Carnaval de Águilas website (in Spanish)
Festival of the Miner's Lamp (Festival Internacional del Cante de las Minas)
The Festival of the Miner's Lamp is a dance competition held in the mining town of La Unión. For a week, performers, often accompanied by local musicians, compete in the public market place for the coveted Miner's Lamp trophy.
Three Cultures International Festival
A festival celebrating multiculturalism and promoting tolerance, with activities and festivities centred around Judaism, Islam and Christianity. There are a range of concerts, dance and art themed activities to encourage the understanding and expression of different cultures and ideas. The event is held in May and June in the streets and squares of Murcia.