St George's Day - A Spanish Festival
Spanish Festival - A wow of a journey
I'm embarrassed to admit, I've lived in the province of Alicante, Spain for a number of years, yet never been to the celebrated Alcoy Spanish festival before, and certainly never seen anything on such a scale.
The journey to Alcoy is breath taking. If you're in the area and have time to spare, take a trip from Jalón via Castell de Castells.
In a land of spectacular beauty, I had no idea how particularly splendid the journey would be. Every bend we took brought something new. It blew my mind. However, it wasn’t the scenery we’d come for; it was the performance - the Spanish festival of the Moors and Christians (Moros y Cristianos)
Spanish Festival - It's Fiesta time
The Spanish festival of the Moors and Christians celebrates the battles between Muslims and Christians during the period known as the Reconquista, from the 8th century right through to the 15th, when the Christians managed to regain Spain for themselves. It is one of those inspirational stories. Mock battles are fought, representing the capture of the city and it’s subsequent re-conquest by the Christians.
The word Moors derives from the Latin, mauri, a name they gave to the Berber tribes living in Roman Mauretania which is now the modern day Algeria and Morocco.
Moors and Christians is a ubiquitous fiesta found in numerous towns and cities throughout Spanish and celebrated on differing dates, so if you miss one, you'll invariably catch another. The festival acts out the skirmishes between the Arabs and the Christians.
Arguably the finest place to see this fiesta is Alcoy, which is why we were there.
Spanish Festival - in Alcoy
In Alcoy, armies parade all day to the sound of strident marching bands. Soldiers representing Marrakech, Mudéjares, Abencerrajes and Benimerines are prepared for war. A group of Andalusia robber barons can be seen, as well as Basque soldiers, an army from Asturias, and a group of loyal Valencian peasants brandishing farm tools.
People along the streets urge the warriors, soldiers march, and horsemen show off their skills. All day long, they parade through the city. The atmosphere is celebratory as Alcoy prepares her armies for war.
A couple of days later, the city overflows with the snarl of conflict as smoke from gunpowder wreaths the city. The Moors and Christians battle the whole day; the Christians are defeated in the morning and the Moorish flag can be seen on the ramparts.
Forget all about Political Correctness here m’lord. Forget modern ideas about not offending or hurting feelings. Spanish have no problem with PC. Prejudice rules - Okay!
Spanish Festival - and St George
The Fiesta is held at different times of the year in different towns, but Alcoy is the most famous. Legend has it St. George appeared there to the Moors and thoroughly frightened them. The tide turned and the Moors retreated. If you thought St George was exclusive to the English with his jolly old dragon – think again. Good old St. George appears all over the world, but as far as the Spanish are concerned, St George Day belongs to them.
St. George was a cavalryman, beheaded for upholding his Christian beliefs in 303 A.D.
St. George was born to a Christian noble family in what is now present day Turkey. His mother was Palestinian. The various legends surrounding him are shared with England, Germany, Greece, Georgia, Moscow, Istanbul, Beirut Lithuania, Portugal, and Palestine.
St. George Day is an important date in Estonia, and there is a strong East Slavic tradition of St. George Day celebrations. Germanic people have a legend of St. George on horseback herding wolves, whilst some old Russian traditions appeal to St. George to guard their cattle.
Spanish Festival - A procession of 5000 people
On 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, April, Alcoy is decked out to celebrate what has become a Major spectacle. On the first day of this spectacular Spanish festival - the day we went, there was a stunning procession of Moors and Christians. Different groups making up each army marched majestically through the streets. They were decked out in luxurious costumes - warriors, their women, handmaids, children, even babies in costume. What an event - like something from a Kindle Romance.
Spanish Festival - No trouble
Wow! If I'd have faced such fierce looking warriors I think I'd have turned tail. A massive 5000 people took part in the parade, whilst the streets were packed-jam-full with spectators. Yet, there was no trouble, no violence, just people of all nationalities out for a day of pleasure.
Spanish Festival - The price of food
The only thing to mar the day was the price of food. Jeeeez! At first I fancied cooked salmon. I changed my mind - it cost THREE times what we'd normally expect. What a rip-off. My advice to anyone going to this particular Spanish festival is - eat somewhere out of the city, or at least delve deep into the backsteets. The price of the stuff spoiled what was otherwise a pretty incredible experience.
Spanish Festival - Long live prejudice
Overall though, I loved it.
It brought to mind those daft minority of English Politically Correct folk who for some misguided reason want to actually suppress Christmas. They want to turn Christmas into a multi-religious event. Multi-religious - it's to celebrate the birth of Christ, for crying out loud - and what's all this about not sending Christmas cards - or not wearing a Crucifix in case you offend other religions? What about the silent majority being offended? What about MY feelings?
Balderdash - What the heck are these silly Politically Correct people on? They should take a leaf out of the Spanish book. Traditions are what keep society sane. Traditions are enjoyable. If it means saving our traditions, then long live prejudice! Long live St George.