The Year Ahead
After New Year's Eve, New Year's Day was a pretty quiet occasion here in the village. Nor was there a rush to the January Sales. They don't start until after our next fiesta, Los Reyes Magos or the Magi who mark Epiphany. On the evening before (5th), Los Reyes arrive in the village - in our case, riding mules - and process through the crowded streets hurling boiled sweets in all directions until they arrive at the public hall where, Santa-like, they take their seats and distribute gifts to the children. That night before going to bed, the children put a shoe outside the front door so that on the following day they will find their big present awaiting them. The day is a national holiday throughout Spain.
Then we have to wait until the 20th before we get another chance to let our hair down on the Feast of San Sebastian, the original patron saint of the village who has the bad grace to celebrate his anniversary at the wrong time of the year; even so the event will be marked with a day off!
February sees two holidays, the 21st which is Andalucia Day, swiftly followed on the 24th by Carneval or Shrove Tuesday. In fact everyone from Frigiliana will be in Nerja down on the coast, because their Carneval is much bigger than ours. Ours - I'm not sure about the theology! - will have to wait until the following Saturday.
March this year offers no opportunities at all for a knees-up, because Semana Santa or Holy Week comes at the beginning of April. This is one of the big observances of the Spanish year and is of spectacular proportions in the major cities, especially Sevilla.
May brings Labour Day on the 1st, and Cruz de Mayo on the 3rd. The latter is marked by the building and display of floral crosses around the village. Everyone makes the rounds to view them and pass judgement, and to receive the gifts of food and drink that the proud originators of each cross provide.
Things go swingingly in June. First, Corpus Christi on the 11th, a week-long Feria to celebrate the feast of Saint Anthony de Padua, the village's present patron saint who was pragmatically chosen to usurp San Sebastian on the unarguable basis that he offered much better weather for a week's carousel than his predecessor. Then, as if a week of fun was insufficient, there's another day off on the 24th to celebrate the Feast of San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) who is King Juan Carlos' name saint.
On 25th July Santiago Matamoros (St James the Greater, who appeared on the battle field during one of the Christian/Moorish wars), patron saint of Spain, whose cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is the final destination of those who walk the ancient Camino de Santiago.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated with a national holiday on August 15th, whilst on the last weekend of the month there is the now traditional Festival of Three Cultures (Christian, Muslim and Jewish) in the village, a four day affair.
In September we arrive at the fiesta of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of the Sorrows) on the 15th.
El Dîa de la Hispanidad,also known as El Pilar, is on the 12th October and demands yet another day off. It is Spain and the Spanish-speaking world's national day and commemorates the date in 1492 when Columbus first set foot ashore in the New World.
1st November is Todos los Santos, when each family takes flowers and candles to the cemetery and the village gathers there to remember its dead.
And so, in no time at all it seems, we are back to December with days off for the Day of the Constitution (6th), the Immaculate Conception (8th), Noche Buena (24th), Navidad (25th) and Noche Vieja (31st), after which it's time to start all over again.
It's a hard life, and I haven't mentioned La Puente; if one of the above days falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, then many people will make a bridge (una puente) to the nearest weekend and take either the Monday or the Friday off as well.