Festivals and Celebrations in Malaga
FIESTA DE SAN JUAN
Throughout the different neighbourhoods of Malaga, spectacular goings-on celebrate the Feast of St John (San Juan). The fiesta is a pagan tradition given Christian sanction for it dates back to an ancient celebration of the Midsummer Solstice. It is a festival of bonfires and mayhem in the streets, echoed all over Spain.
The climax of the festival comes at midnight on the 23rd when juas, large cloth figures filled with sawdust, paper or similar materials, are set on fire. These figures are made by the people of the neighbourhoods and usually represent a grotesque caricature of some public figure. The bonfire is also the occasion to get rid of old furniture, which helps to keep the fire burning much longer!
Most of the bonfires prepared to burn the juas are set up along the beach. When the flames have dwindled to an appropriate size, young people start jumping over the fire, demonstrating great ability in a competition of skill and bravery. At the same time the rest of the group continues to dance around the fire.
According to tradition, the night of San Juan is magical (in Rome it is thought the witches fly) and anyone having a swim in the sea or who washes his/her face with sea water at the stroke of midnight will conserve eternal beauty.
The Veladilla, or evening celebrations, organised by the youth group at the church of San Juan are particularly noteworthy. After decorating the Calle San Juan and surrounding streets, the group organises games for children and adults, dances, competitions, masquerades, etc. There is also a beauty contest to choose Miss Veladilla for the coming year. A great night to find oneself in the pretty town of Malaga.
FERIA DE MALAGA (Malaga Fair)
The annual Malaga fair in August is an exuberant weeklong street party with plenty of flamenco and 'fino'(sherry).The fair commemorates the re-conquest of the city by Isabella and Ferdinand in 1487 and lasts for ten full festive days.
This castanet-clicking fiesta starts off with a bang, literally, with an impressive firework display at the Paseo Maritimo Ciudad de Melilla(on La Malagueta beach) which can be seen for miles around. The best view is from the Port if you happen to be on a cruise ship or can persuade a sailor friend to drop anchor there for a few hours.
The following day the people take to the streets, the women in flouncy flamenco dresses, to dance, drink and, generally, make merry. The traditional dance of Andalucia is called 'Sevillanas' comprising four distinct dances with plenty of finger-clicking, foot-stomping and, above all, feeling. This is where 'dancing in the street' can be appreciated spontaneously 'en vida' which is really the only way Spanish dancing should be performed.
This city fair is concentrated around Malaga's equivalent to London's Bond Street - Marques de Larios which is decorated with paper lanterns and flags and where horses replace cars as the means of transport. Millions of people visit the fair, although very few tourists seem to even know about this intrinsically Andalusian traditional fiesta which, in Malaga, is two distinct events, in the centre during the day and at the fairground from around 9 pm until dawn. The latter is an immense precinct where various associations install their 'casetas' - large booths for entertainment and refreshment, where old and young alike meet up in laughing gossiping circles, surrounded by swirling dancers and waiters rushing around tripping over babies and young children and making sure that everyone is continually topped up with fino and 'tapas'.
The casetas are also where many business deals are struck between local Malagueños who have closed their conventional office for the week. Outside, the fair is a gaudy, raucous fairyland of dazzling lights, deafening music, soaring ferris wheels and careering dodgem cars, an assault on all the senses and incomparable to any 'conventional' fair elsewhere.
The Andalusian feria is celebrated in the majority of towns and even villages at some time between Spring and Autumn and for the locals means far more than a holiday from work. They are the very reason and justification for the year, occasions to be immersed in with passion and commitment. Some, like Malaga, Cordoba and, particularly Seville are rich and glittering affairs attracting millions of visitors while others, such as the feria of Casares is a far smaller version; an exuberant street party where everyone knows everyone and relatives who have moved away return to join their families in the all familiar annual celebration