Top 10 Fiestas in Alicante

The colourful Spanish way of life spills over into its fiestas. Almost every week, there is a fiesta somewhere in the Alicante which is a fine excuse to eat, drink and have plenty of fun. These range from sombre religious processions to burning satirical statues. Many provide plenty of entertainment for onlookers especially when animal lovers bring their pets, including bulls and snakes, to church for a blessing or for the comical ritual of burying a sardine. Spain-Holiday has picked 10 of the best fiestas in Alicante for you to enjoy.   
Moors and christians valencia

Battle between the Moors and Christians 

Spain was under Moorish rule for 700 years until Isabelle and Philip, the Catholic monarchs of Castille and Aragon, reconquered the Moorish part of the country, which ended with the fall of Granada, the last Moorish kingdom in 1492. The re-conquest is celebrated annually throughout Spain with magnificent Moors and Christians festivals in all major towns throughout Alicante including Alcoy, Calpe and Denia. 

Without doubt the biggest and the best is in the Alicante inland city of Alcoy. Every April the people of Alcoy re-enact the battles between the Moors and Christians in colourful costumes accompanied by kettle drums and trumpets. The two groups fight it out in the streets, which are filled with noise and smoke, watched by thousands of spectators. This fiesta is now officially recognised as being of international tourist interest. 

Bonfires for the fallas 

High on the list of fiestas is the unique Fallas festival in the Valencia region. It began with bonfires of rubbish that was being thrown away after winter and transformed itself into a celebration of Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19. These days the fallas are giant papier-mache statues that have taken on satirical meanings, usually aimed at politicians. For a fortnight the streets of Denia resound to the bangs of firecrackers, the falleras groups parade through the town in their traditional costumes, accompanied by bands of musicians. Every day a mascleta (display of firecrackers) is set off, often reaching noise levels of more than 120 decibels! It culminates on the night of March 19 with the statues in turn being burned to a cinder. 

Fallas fiesta in Denia

Running with the bulls 

Spain and bulls – the two are synonymous and one of the most famous fiestas in the Alicante region is Bous a la Mar. Denia stages its week-long running of the bulls in July and it is a time for the young, the brave or foolhardy, to pit the fleetness of their feet, against the bulls as they race through the town’s main street, Marques de Campo, to a temporary bullring alongside the fishing port. Spectators, protected by wooden barriers, cheer the participants, who, when they reach the bullring try to entice the beasts in to the sea, hence the fiesta’s name. 

Celebrating summer 

The Spanish are nothing if not fascinated by fire and bonfires are what, each year, leads to thousands taking to Alicante’s beaches to celebrate the summer solstice on the feast of San Juan. Alicante city claims the best San Juan fiesta on its magnificent  beaches. Thousands, many in family groups arrive with food and drink, to light bonfires and enjoy the party atmosphere. Many foolhardy youngsters risk a scorching as they leap the bonfires in the hope that it will bring them good luck and prosperity. During this time, Alicante streets are taken over by giant works of art (similar to the fallas fiesta in Valencia in March) with elaborate statues erected in the streets and burnt. Most towns such as Denia, Benidorm and Torrevieja hold similar bonfire parties on the beaches while others, including Javea, also feature the hogueras or giant statues. 

Silent processions at Easter 

Easter is celebrated throughout Alicante and in Orihuela, Elche and Crevillent thousands of residents take part in the parades that commemorate the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus and his Resurrection. Good Friday is a particularly moving spectacle. The procession through the streets takes place in complete silence, the only sound being that of marching feet as giant statues, some hundreds of years old and created by artists such as Salzillo, are carried by people in costumes to the cities’ cathedrals. 

Linked with the Easter festival is the one in Elche to mark Palm Sunday. It is almost inevitable that a city with more than 200,000 palm trees should do something special. Processions are held throughout streets of the old city centre with thousands of people carrying delicately woven palm leaves. Like the Moors and Christians events in Alcoy, the Palm Sunday celebration in Elche is now recognised as a Fiesta of International Interest for Tourists. 

Palm trees in Elche

Carnival spirit 

Spaniards love a carnival and the beautiful climate of Alicante province lends itself to the outdoor life of which Carnival is such a part. Benidorm, tourism capital of the province, has the biggest and the best which it celebrates before the start of the austere period of Lent. Giant decorated floats parade through the streets as thousands of people turn out to watch and join in the fun, dancing to the marching bands. 

Burial of the sardine 

The Spanish sense of the occasion never ceases to astound visitors. The fabulous fallas fiesta grew out of a simple need to get rid of wood at the end of winter. The burial of the sardine started out as a symbolic burial of the past on Ash Wednesday. Today, it takes place during Carnival with people dressed as giant fish and a mock funeral for the said sardine before its subsequent burning.  

Balancing giant loaves of bread 

The little village of Torremanzanas hosts one of the oldest fiestas in Spain, known as the blessing of the bread, which celebrates the feast of Saint Gregory. For five days in May villagers pay homage to the saint and on the third day youths, known as illumeners (candle carriers) visit the houses of young girls called clavariesas, and take part in a parade. Each of the girls carries a large loaf of bread, weighing up to eight kilos, on her head. They parade through the streets to the town hall, escorted by the town band, and then to St Gregory’s church where the bread is blessed with holy water and distributed to the parishioners. 

Blessed are the animals 

Taking pets to church

Most fiestas have some sort of religious connection and none more so than St Anthony’s on January 17 each year. St Anthony is the patron saint of animals and on that date villagers and townsfolk throughout the province parade their animals through the streets to the parish church where they are blessed. In some parts bonfires are lit as the smoke is supposed to purify the animals. In Denia the animals and their owners assemble at the Glorieta Square before moving to the main church in the town hall square.    

Gifts fit for a King

Spaniards celebrate the Three Kings Festival on January 5, the day when Christmas gifts are given and received. Everywhere it is celebrated nowhere more so then in Denia and Benidorm where the trio chosen as the Three Kings, dressed up in their traditional costumes, arrive in the town, usually by sea, bringing with them the gold, frankincense and myrrh, which the Bible tells, were taken to Bethlehem to mark the birth of Jesus. The whole town turns out to watch them walk through the streets to the parish church and give out presents to the children.