La Candelaria – Candlemas (February 2nd)

The Fiesta de la Candelaria takes place on February 2nd and is celebrated in many towns and villages throughout Spain.

The feast honours the day Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to perform the required sacrifice of purification.

It is a Christian celebration dating back to the 8th Century and in pagan folklore it denoted the middle of winter.

Although the basic concept of ‘purification’ is the foundation of the fiesta, it is celebrated in many different ways in Spain. These vary from simple candlelit parades to bizarre events involving wooden bulls. There is even a devil parade.

In Madrid, the streets fill with clowns dressed as Andalucían farmers (cheeky lot) who bring out young bulls (vaquillas) consisting of a wooden frame with two horns.

Bullfighters, to use the term exceedingly loosely, dressed in multicolored silk trousers, perform  mock bullfights around town all day long. At the end of the day in the town plaza, the bull is ceremonially  ‘killed’ and sangria is passed around to symbolise the blood of the bull.

In Málaga, it is a fairly standard procession with a reenactment of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

In Menasalbas, Toledo, there is a horseback parade in which 11 riders and their 22 serfs carry torches through the town.

Almonacid del Marquesado, Cuenca, is the scene of a ‘devil’ parade, hundreds of gaily clad devils cavorting around the streets.

In A Pobra de Trives, Ourense, sausages are the order of the day. Homemade chorizo sausages are cooked on huge bonfires.

How some of these local variations are related to the original celebration is anyone’s guess, especially the one in Madrid. Bonfires, maybe. They could at least symbolise giant candles…with a bit of imagination.