Did you know that technically carnival on Tenerife started at the end of January this year?
I say technically because although carnival starts with an endless round of Murga competitions (satirical clown groups), it isn’t really carnival.
The real thing begins once the gala for the carnival queen in Santa Cruz takes place and the queen is crowned on Wednesday 26 February 2014… or, more accurately, the early ours of Thursday. It ends on 9 March. Dates in Puerto de la Cruz are roughly the same.
The run up can lead to some surreal scenes in the capital in weeks preceding the main event. Sitting, sipping copas de vino in the city’s back streets a couple of weeks ago we were passed by zombies and then a group of miniature mimes who looked as though they were straight out of that old cult 1980s gang flick, The Warriors.
It reminded me of scenes from the classic TV series Blackpool, starring David Tennant and David Morrisey, where every so often an Elvis would wander across the background and nobody paid any attention.
Carnival is like that. For battle hardened carnival veterans, surreal sights barely register at this time of year. Carnival virgins, on the other hand, might be wondering if someone’s slipped them a Mickey Finn.
Whilst we are all razzled and dazzled by the colourful parades and clever costumes – the witty, outrageous, skimpy and bizarre – look out for the fringe carnival attractions. The gaudy kiosks around Plaza del Charco are packed with cheap carnival accessories. I never fail to get a buzz out of seeing sensible looking, middle-aged guys in Pringle sweaters mulling over which set of bare boobs to buy.
Carnival is also a junk food frenzy, with churro vans, hamburger & hot dog stalls and kiosks selling candy floss and hot, sugar-coated almonds wherever carnival is taking place. Best though are the huge food stalls with hanging hams and chorizos, mountains of calamari, fried fish, morcillas and chips that are set up in plazas in both Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz. These can be more expensive than local restaurants but they are unbeatable places to sit and munch tapas.
Contrastingly, carnival drink stalls are very good value and cañas (a glass of beer) are usually around €1 with strong combinados (spirit and mixer) a steal at €3.50.
Every carnival on Tenerife has a theme that changes each year. This year in Santa Cruz the theme is cartoons. In Puerto de la Cruz it’s the Wild West; in Los Cristianos (21 to 31 March) it’s Africa and in Los Gigantes (13 to 17 March) it’s the 80s – it might be difficult to spot the difference with that one.
What does having a carnival theme actually mean? If you ever find out, let me know as it certainly doesn’t generally influence what carnival goers wear as costumes.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter. Carnival is about having fun and enjoying yourself whatever suits best; whether that’s watching parades, dressing up and dancing till dawn at street parties or sitting at a kiosk sipping wine, eating jamón serrano and watching Tenerife’s weird world pass by.
Category : festivals & carnivals
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