Christmas in Spain is one of our favorite times. In general, Christmas in Spain is based more on a religious theme than in many other places. Churches are packed to capacity, day and night. Most churches have several services each day as Christmas approaches.
The atmosphere can be electric. Unlike many other places in Europe, Christmas lights do not usually go up in Spain until late November. Every town and city will decorate the streets with millions of lights. Christmas markets also begin to appear. Christmas trees are on sale everywhere
Nativity displays (Belens) Estepona has it's Nativity display on Calle Terraza, the main street and it is impressive and the churches will have a smaller 'belen' .
The Three Kings The next important day is the 6th January or Three Kings Day (Los Reyes). This is the day that the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem, it is also the most important day for the children as the Three Kings in effect replace Father Christmas for Spanish children (although Santa is becoming popular). They arrive overnight on the 5th January, traditionally riding horses but often arrive by boat or even helicopter. The Kings will leave presents for the children during the night. Parents encourage children to write to the Three Kings with their gift requests.
Estepona town will have a procession on the early evening of 5th January where tons of sweets will be thrown from the passing floats, much to the joy of the children (and adults).
Semana Santa or Holy Week is the Spanish name for Easter.
It dates back to the 16th century when the Church decided to present the story of the Passion of Christ in a way that the layperson could understand. It was decided that the best way to do this would be a series of processions through the streets, depicting scenes from the story of the fall and rise again of Jesus Christ.
Semana Santa is at its most Catholically extravagant in Andalusia, Estepona has it's own colourful procession but in Andalucia they usually recommended
tourists to go and see Malaga or Sevilla, these cities are Semana Santa in all of its pomp and glory.
San Juan June 24th. Welcome to the magical night of San Juan.
San Juan is about changes. It is about night to day; it is about fire to water. Fire purifies and water recuperates, refreshes, and rejuvenates. June 24th has the shortest night of the year, and bonfires are the theme of the night. Men and women, young people and children, all spend time to build these bonfires.
According to tradition, if people jump over a bonfire three times on San Juan's night, they will be cleansed and purified, and their problems are burned away. In Estepona, San Juan is celebrated on the night of June 23rd, On the beaches of Estepona it's common to see people jumping over fires which, according to legend, cleanse the body and the soul. Jumping in the sea at midnight is supposed to be a way to wash away evil spirits.
It is the ritual that rules at San Juan, after midnight, people wash their faces and feet three times in order to be granted three wishes and for a happy twelve months thereafter. Bathing at this time is also said to be beneficial for skin complaints. The sight of hundreds of people wandering into the water after midnight with the haze of bonfires everywhere can be close to awe inspiring.
As well as the bonfires that burn continuously, there are also Juas, large cloth figures filled with sawdust,paper etc that are burnt. This is usually done around midnight. Originally, the effigies were supposed to represent Judas Iscariot but now, the religious relevance seems to have become secondary to the enjoyment factor. Quite often the Juas are made up to represent local or national personalities who are famous (or sometimes infamous). The burning of these effigies is supposed to bring good luck but quite often, it is just good fun and it makes a great spectacle. Some of the effigies can be quite elaborate.
The smell of smoke permeates the air and there is a feeling of camaraderie that crosses age, culture, and background. So make sure that you reserve the night of June 23rd for La noche de San Juan. Bring plenty to drink, something to eat, carry a sweater if you are going to be near the water, be prepared to see the sun rise on the morning of the 24th. Normally there are concerts, music, and other types of entertainment to keep revelers interested all night long, as if watching the beauty of the bonfires were not enough.
Purify and enjoy.
Estepona Feria One of the biggest fiestas is the annual Feria that takes place in July. The event lasts a week and consists of a day fair (mainly for the children) and a night fair. Both fairs give way to the rhythm of 'Sevillianas', rumbas and popular Spanish music. The whole of the town bursts into colour and passion. At midday the bars fill to capacity when all manner of Andalusian cuisine can be sampled including the well known paella which is traditionally eaten in the streets. The day fair continues until seven in the evening when everyone rests in preparation for the night fair. The town is illuminated at night with thousands of light bulbs and the meeting points change from the bars to the outdoor pavilions and the fairground rides. A children's paradise emerges from the darkness with rides of every description. The smell of candyfloss mingles with that of cooked octopus and music emits from every street. Estepona's annual fair is repeated on the grand scale every year and never fails to attract thousands of visitors and satisfies each and every one of them.
Virgin Del Carmen On the evening of July 16, in the fishing villages and towns up and down the Coast "Virgin Del Carmen" is celebrated.
Here in Estepona the much-loved effigy of the "Virgin" is taken from the fisherman's church and carried very slowly along the main road to Playa La Rada beach, the road is lined by hundreds of onlookers, the "Virgin" is put onboard a flower-adorned "jabega" and taken for a spin round the bay blessing the fishing boats and yachts alike in a frenzy of accompaning flotilla of "jábegas" (fishing boats). Brass bands play, crowds cheer, rockets shoot off and fireworks fill the late dusk sky.
To understand why the Virgen del Carmen should be held so dear to the inhabitants of towns such as Estepona, Velez Malaga, Torremolinos and Rincon de la Victoria, we need to go back to the Old Testament. Downshifting in his old age, the prophet Elias retreated to a cave in Mount Carmelo near Haife (Israel). Many centuries later, hermits following in Elijah's footsteps asked for the protection of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo - the Virgin of Carmen. Stella Maris, as she was also known, was soon adopted by mariners and fishermen everywhere as their patron.