Arona: Tenerife’s First Romeria of the Year

Fri, January 20th, 2012 - By Linda

It’s January and, with the festive season over, cities, towns and villages throughout Spain are thinking ahead to their local fiestas. Every community from Madrid to Caleta del Sebo on the tiny island of Graciosa off the coast of Lanzarote celebrates the feast day of their patron saint, and attending one of these fiestas or romerias will give you a real sense of what a place is like, away from the tourist resorts.

There is a mistaken assumption by visitors to Teneife that you have to go north to see a genuine slice the island, but not so. Famously billed in the Canary Islands as “The First Romeria of the Year,” the feast day of San Antonio Abad on January 17th is celebrated in several villages in Tenerife, including Santiago del Teide, within easy reach of Los Gigantes and Playa San Juan, and Arona village less than twenty minutes drive from Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas and Costa Adeje.

San Antonio Abad or St Anthony the Abbot (as opposed to other St Anthonys) is patron saint of domestic animals, and in both towns his statue is taken from the parish church in procession around the villages to bless both working animals and pets, among other things. Although his feast day is the 17th, most communities hold their main event on the nearest Sunday for convenience.

I came across the celebration in Santiago del Teide by accident last year. Seeing the bunting outside the church, I stopped to watch a troupe of dancers performing. Their dances were similar to those performed by English Morris Dancers, and afterwards they escorted the statue, followed by children with their pets, and joined around the corner from the church by riders on horses and ponies, making a colourful cavalcade as they wound their way around the village.

In comparison, Arona’s Romeria is a much grander affair, a week of events for village residents culminates on the Sunday with a traditional parade through narrow streets, including wagons drawn by oxen, maypole dancers, folk groups from neighbouring towns and, of course, the town band, all the while folk on the immaculately decorated wagons tossing food into the carefully roped-off crowd of spectators. Traditional dress is worn by almost all Canarians, and pets of every description tag along too. Once the quite lengthy procession is over bands strike up in the town square, kiosks selling beer, wine and food open up all around and the dancing begins. It will go on until the wee small hours of the morning. Arona takes its celebrating seriously!

If you are in Tenerife at the right time of year I highly recommend a visit. You will be made very welcome; there is nothing Canarians like better than to show off their traditions and culture, especially to strangers. You will be plied with food and drink, and once the traditional dancing is over a salsa band will strike up to take the feasting to its next level, and you don’t really need to know how to salsa in order to join in!

Parking these days, as the popularity of the festival grows, is almost impossible, so I would recommend checking the times of the local bus service TITSA, that way you can sample some of the excellent local wines too. Salud, enjoy!

Posted : Friday, January 20th, 2012 at 10:22 am
Category : festivals & carnivals
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One Response to “Arona: Tenerife’s First Romeria of the Year”

  1. […] visitors so life, community spirit and traditions remain much the same as they have for decades. Visit a romería in any and you’ll soon see what I […]

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