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FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS

During the year there are a lot of interesting local and national holidays in Alicante. The most popular festival with tourists is the celebration called the “Bonfires of St. John”. It is celebrated annually on the day of the summer solstice. To greet the mighty Sun, the inhabitants of the city make large fires in the square around the city. Anyone can put any unnecessary thing into the fire, this ritual resembles a kind of sacrifice. It is believed that in return for something given to be burned in the fires, a person will receive a lot of other material benefits.

On the day of the festival, interesting musical and theatrical performances, sports competitions and traditional bullfights take place in the city. The streets are set up with large dance floors and open summer cafes. The most popular national dish, which certainly one should eat on a holiday, are cakes from figs and tuna. Another interesting holiday tradition is the choice of the festival queens. In each district of Alicante, a beauty contest is held, and later, from among the winners they choose the Queen of the celebration.

Many national holidays in Spain are religious in character, with Holy Week being the most important celebration . During this period, processions are organized to the most important religious monuments in the city, and more than twenty religious communities take part in the festival. Equally important is the pilgrimage of Santa Faz.  A quite solemn occasion which is celebrated with a procession from the ancient cathedral of St. Nicholas to the monastery of Santa Faz, which holds one of the most valuable, Catholic religious artifacts – a cloth the face of Jesus Christ. The sacred relic was brought to the monastery by one of the monks as early as the 15th century. Since then it has been a world famous centre of pilgrimage.

In general, religious traditions in Alicante play a significant role. As in the rest of Spain, the locals have a wide variety of traditions and festivals associated with the faith. The most significant celebrations include Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Procession of the Kings-Magi), Semana Santa (Easter and Holy Week) and Christmas. A peculiarity of the 3 Kings Procession ,the Magi in Alicante, is that they ride a camel. On the way, they throw candy to the watching crowds, which is why all the children are happy. In order to receive gifts, children must perform a ritual: put a bucket of water near the door so that camels can have a drink.

At the same time, the influence of Islamic Spain, and the so-called Moors – heavily influences the festivals, the city and Andalucía generally.  This is what many people say in terms of architecture, mentality, traditional crafts, customs, even language (some words and city names clearly indicate this). So, the Moors were the ones who spread Eastern knowledge to Western Europe, thereby developing art, law, science and agriculture. During their rule, Christians and Jews we treated more tolerantly and together this created an explosive mixture – a passionate, sensual and emotional Spanish soul, and in particular, this is clearly seen in Alicante. A vivid confirmation of this is the Moros y Cristianos festival held in March, July, August and December .

The people who live here are truly musical. Most music festivals take place in the summer. First of all, it should be noted that the summer concerts in Santa Barbara Castle are the most famous music events in Alicante. The festival begins in mid-July and lasts until mid-September. Everyone can find music to their liking – indie rock sounds in the Parque de la Ereta, rock on the castle’s roof, and jazz in the restaurant. Theatrical performances take place in the square, and ethnic music around the area of the reservoir.

 

In the middle of July, the jazz festival also starts, featuring eminent jazz performers from all over the world.  And in the middle of November the Contemporary Chamber Music festival   “Alicante Actual” starts .  Its striking characteristic is that the concerts are held in the city hall just after the civil servants finish their working day, at 8 pm. The pieces that are performed here are also old works that have received a new sound, and written by modern composers. The festival ends at the end of May.

 

At the end of February, the gastronomic fair GastroAlicante takes place . Here there is an opportunity not only to try new dishes and drinks, but also to get high-quality advice from renowned chefs at master classes, in particular, on paella preparation. There is a festival at Recinto Ferial near the airport. Many small restaurants join the celebration and present their unique dishes. Culinary competitions are also held here, most often they cook “ensalada rusa” and soup with meatballs.

 

In mid-September, the Euro Table Tennis Festival takes place , in which tennis sports competitions and veteran championships are organized.  This is one of the most significant events in the world in this sport. At the same time, a festival of a different kind is taking place – Russian-language cinema is honoured here , and famous Russian filmmakers are invited to attend the festival as participants. During the event, you can watch Russian cinema for free in the “Las Cigarreras” cultural centre.  The opening ceremony of the festival itself takes place in Santa Barbara castle.

 

Alicante is no less colourful during winter when locals are celebrating Christmas and New Year.  The city hosts two Christmas street markets in calle Frederico Soto and in Plaza Gabriel Miro. The city even opens an outdoor skating rink in honour of the holiday.  On December 22nd  the most famous, and popular, Christmas lottery in Spain (El Gordo, The Fat One) is being decided with almost all residents buying tickets for it. On December 28th, in Alicante, it is customary to poke fun at acquaintances, to arrange jokes, which even “warms up” the pre-holiday mood. This day is called El Día de Santos Innocentes . At the beginning of the month, on December 6th, a colourful holiday is held in honor of the patron saint of St. Nicholas.

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