With the summer season about to kick off and the Tegueste Romeria already behind us, it’s a good time to take a look at three of the island’s most popular fiestas and find out where they originated and why.
Fiesta de San Juan
The midsummer fiesta of San Juan is one of the oldest celebrations on the island with its roots firmly in Pagan ritual and practised by the Guanche long before the Spanish decided they fancied the look of the place.
The night of the 23rd June is the shortest night, followed by the longest day in Nature’s cycle when the sun hits its zenith and hangs there for three days before switching its trajectory. Since time immemorial it has signified change and rebirth in the agricultural and animal husbandry calendar, celebrated with the lighting of bonfires to purify and cleanse and water to rejuvenate. Believed to be a time of heightened magic, the Guanche bathed their animals in the San Juan waters of the Ocean to ensure health and fertility for the coming year.
Today, the Midsummer’s Eve fiesta of San Juan is celebrated across the north of Tenerife with bonfires and a midnight swim. In Puerto de la Cruz on the morning of the 24th June, goatherds still bathe their goats in the harbour waters much to the bemusement of onlookers and the annoyance of the goats.
Everyone knows that carnival is aligned to Lent and has its origins in the Catholic practice of using up meat and dairy products before giving them up for the fast period of 40 days and nights. But why does carnival involve donning fancy dress costumes?
Carnival was frowned upon by the elders of the Catholic Church who would admonish parishioners they saw enjoying themselves too much. In order to avoid such persecution, revellers took to wearing masks and disguises and men dressed as women to throw the Church off the scent. Beneath their disguise, people felt free to behave as bawdily as they pleased and used the occasion to bypass social etiquette and go straight for the unbridled fun.
If you head to the bottom of Calle Antonio Gonzalez Glez in Icod de los Vinos on the night of the 29th November you’ll see local youths hurtling down the steep street on wooden boards. Followed by a fiery trail of sparks as they careen across the tarmac, the boards crash into a mountain of rubber tyres at the bottom sending board in one direction and rider in another.
The roots of the practice of riding the boards at San Andres go back to the 18th century when Tenerife’s wine was at the height of its popularity. At the end of November when the fermentation process was complete, wine barrels were taken to the sea on wooden boards to be washed. Pulled across cobbled streets by oxen, their speed and direction were controlled by a driver who stood on the boards and used a staff as rudder and anchor.
Category : about tenerife
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