It may seem appropriate that there are floral displays in towns and villages around the Canary Islands on May 3rd. After all, the archipelago’s nickname is “The Islands of Eternal Spring.” May 3rd is, also, the feast of Flora, Roman goddess of flowers and springtime. Yet neither is the reason for the, sometimes magnificent, displays you can see, especially in capital, Santa Cruz and in Puerto de la Cruz.
Given that almost all of the displays are in the shape of a cross, and that the Spanish word for cross is cruz, you can probably guess that May 3rd is El Día de la Cruz or the Day of the Holy Cross. There is another festival of the cross, in September, but the May festival is far more important in Tenerife.
Legend has it that the Emperor Constantine, emerging victorious from battle, after seeing a vision of Christ telling him that a cross should be carried in the front his army; tasked his mother, later to become Saint Helena, with finding the original cross on which Jesus had died. She did so, and this was, of course, an important event in the history of the then fledgling Christian church. Her dying wish was that the date of her death should be celebrated as the Day of the Cross, which fitted nicely into the church’s custom of aligning the new Christian dates with pagan ones (Flora), giving the newly-converted congregations continuity of traditions.
Fast forward something over a thousand years, and the Spanish Conquistadors traditionally planted crosses in the heathen earth they claimed, including Tenerife, which accounts for the word being so common in places names in the Hispanic world. Puerto de la Cruz is the port of the cross, for instance, and confusingly there are many cities named Santa Cruz, even the Canary Islands has another one, in Santa Cruz de la Palma. A part of the wooden cross, planted on the shore of Tenerife, is said to be kept in the pretty Iglesia de la Concepción in Santa Cruz.
Though the biggest celebrations are in the island capital, masses, processions and most definitely beautiful displays of cross-shaped flowers can be found throughout the island.
However, it isn’t only the towns with the word cruz in their name which celebrate. You can find beautiful displays in Adeje and in Granadilla de Abona in the south, as well as Icod de los Vinos and Los Realejos in the north; and displays are not only for churches or town halls, restaurants, hotels and private homes also sport colourful displays by their doors or on their balconies.
All of the places mentioned can be easily reached via the excellent TITSA bus service, or if you’ve hired a car, a tour to see more than one village would make a pleasant day’s sightseeing. Displays are usually left up for several days afterwards. They are rarely to be found in the modern resorts like Playa de las Americas or Golf del Sur, but if you’re thinking of taking a trip to see some island traditions, May 3rd is a colourful day to choose, full of photo ops.
Category : festivals & carnivals
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