Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


Almond Blossom Time Is Over: A Slightly Cynical Look at Tenerife Island Festivals

This post began, a couple of weeks back, in a totally different form. Technology killed it. I clicked something I shouldn’t have, and three-quarters of what I’d written was lost in the ether of cyberspace. I had no heart to try to recall lost words. Its time was past.

All of which set me thinking about how we tell time by the revolving customs as well as the seasons.


almond blossom el hierro

As soon as the Kings have hiked on back to Fairyland, I begin to think about almond blossom.  The first ones were spotted this year very early in January, and I missed my usual jaunt over to Santiago del Teide to see them , so I was surprised and happy to spot on orchard in El Hierro, still groaning with blossoms.

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Las Tablas de San Andres: Fiesta Fun or Madness in Icod de los Vinos?

Spain is famous for its crazy festivals, and the Canary Islands have their fair share, that’s for sure.  However, Las Tablas de San Andes in the historic town of Icod de los Vinos, has to take the prize for craziest. How crazy is it?  Well, would you slide helter-skelter down an almost vertical, cobble-stoned street on a tea-tray?

And as proof of just how significant the event is, the town even displays a sculpture of a rider outside the Casa de Cáceres, now a museum, but formerly a grand, colonial-style residence, on the corner of la Plaza Pila.

In fact, as with many traditions and festivals, it evolved from historical roots.  The town’s name is a combination of the Guanche (the original inhabitants of the island) name Icod and “de los Vinos”  in tribute to the area’s most popular product.  The feast of San Andres, or St Andrew (yes, Tenerife shares a patron saint with Scotland), falls on November 29th, just when the new season’s wine is ready to be tried and approved, so the day is very much about the presentation of the new wine.  In days of yore, when barrels were needed for the wine, citizens would take themselves to the forests above the town to cut down suitable trees, and then, sitting astride them, would propel themselves downhill using sticks as steering and breaks, to get them to the vineyards. When and how the jump was made from tree trunk to tea-tray I don’t know, but the tradition is most definitely alive and well in the town in the 21st century.

I’m lucky that my friend, Cristina, is a native of Icod.  She’s been asking me for a few years now to go experience the festival, but this year was the first time I made it.  In fact, last year the entire fiesta was cancelled following torrential rains – white water rafting might have been more appropriate than sledging!

We were about ten minutes or so out of Icod when the extent of the fiesta began to dawn on me.  As we passed through tiny villages and the suburbs of the town we were down to a crawling pace – just in case any sledges, with or without children attached, came hurtling out of one of the hilly side roads.  Glancing to the right,  I could see that narrow streets were barricaded with mounds of tyres, and access would be impossible other than on foot.  Goodness me, was the whole area disrupted this way? The answer was pretty obviously yes, the nearer to the town center we got, the bigger the piles of tyres!

Officially, this day is not a bank holiday, though some children clearly were not in school, other schools were open for business as usual. It both delights and irritates me that fiestas are taken so “seriously” here.  At Carnaval week, for instance, banks close at midday,which I usually curse, but another side of me thinks that it is absolutely fan-bl**dy-tastic that fun and pleasure are considered so important.

Cristina regaled me with stories of her childhood adventures from this, particular, holiday as we approached the town.  Apparently on the eve of San Andes it was the custom for the local kids to knock on neighbors’ doors, and to be given candies, just as American kids do on Halloween.

It seemed suspiciously quiet as we parked up. It was just before lunchtime, and there was that calm-before-the-storm feeling.  As we walked through Icod’s meandering, main roads,  stalls and bars were setting up in the streets, and the braziers were being stoked in readiness for the day’s other traditional treat – roasted chestnuts…..on a personal level my idea of heaven was about to explode in my taste buds – chestnuts AND wine!  Chestnut is my second-favorite flavor, after cinnamon (in case you wondered).  Ahead we spied a small crowd at the next  junction, and sure enough there was a huge pile of tyres, and up at the top of the street a crowd of kids, clearly psyching each other to “come on down.”

Suddenly, a pretty-in-pink little girl, who looked to be about eight or nine years old, detached herself from the crowd, pushed herself off,  with heavily gloved hands, just the way you would in snow, and began to bump her way  down the street.  She was followed by a couple of young bucks, whether not to be outdone by a girl, or in hot pursuit I don’t know, but she was on her feet and heading back, tea-tray tucked under arm, as they crashed, heroically, into the tyres.

At a closer glance, the tablas were something even less than tea-tray;  basically a slat of wood (and using anything other than wood is, apparently, cheating) with metal rails fixed either side.  A friend of Cristina’s told me that her niece had been decorating hers for weeks.  We watched the fun for a while, me not knowing whether to applaud their courage or shake my head, but when we moved on to the even steeper street which approaches Plaza Pila, I could see that what we’d been watching was, indeed, just kids’ stuff.  This is where the big boys were playing.The street twists so much that we couldn’t even see the beginning of the run, and the lads in their early teens who were careering down, swayed from side to side and were going, well, a bit faster than the little kids had been doing, and when they crashed into the ginormous pile of tyres they did it with huge aplomb and much drama, so much so that I drew a sharp breath a couple of times, on one occasion much to the amusement of the owner of the bar in which I was sitting.  I couldn’t resist commenting that the young men of Icod were loco, and she laughed that if they were crazy then so was she, because she’d loved to take part when she was young. It seemed that the entire population had taken part in this madness at some stage in their lives, and I couldn’t believe how normal it was considered to be!

Rosa and I with our first glasses of the night.

We returned to Plaza Pila that night for the presentation of the new wine.  This proved to be a surprisingly staid affair, given the exciting things happening around town, with lots of speeches, and we drifted over to the other side of the square to listen to a group of local musicians playing outside a bar.  They seemed to be much more in the spirit of things! Eventually, what Churchill called the “jaw jaw” over, servers appeared out of nowhere to open the bottles of wine lined up on the tables around the square, and others appeared magically with trays of canapés, nuts and, of course, chestnuts to soak up the wine, and the serious business of the night began.   Even the musicians packed up to attend to the more important business. It wasn’t a serious wine tasting so much as a celebration that the year’s harvest was finally bottled and ready.  Canarian wines should be drunk young, and the white wine from Icod de los Vinos is one of the islands best and most famous.

Once the wine ran out in the Plaza the trek was on to find more, basically what Brits would call a “pub crawl”.  Returning to the town’s main thoroughfares, those bars and stalls and braziers which had been setting up before were now all doing a roaring trade, and it seemed as if the entire population was out on the streets having fun one way or another.

It’s a very sociable festival, and perhaps there are hints of welcoming the change in season too, which pre-date what we know for sure about local history. It certainly felt like the beginning of the “holiday season,” just as Thanksgiving does in the US. As we wandered, our group increased and decreased in numbers as folk joined,  and others went to greet friends.  People would disappear only to reappear a couple of stops further on.

When we came across the streets where the tablas were racing, the kids’ stuff had given way to the real macho guys (and a sprinkling of girls). Closer inspection showed that their tablas were posher affairs than the kiddies’ ones too, most of them with foam or some sort of cushioning to sit on…..and it soon was obvious that they needed it!  The undersides were being waxed with all the dedication an experienced skier pays to his skis.  Older teens and young adults were nothing less than hurling themselves down seemingly vertical slopes, vying as to who could take off highest on the bumps, and lurching into those tyre mountains (the bigger the boys the bigger the mountains!) at terrifying speeds.  Imagine the luge, only on the street and not on ice!  Every now and then whistles would sound, flares would be held up as instruction to stop further activity until some wounded participant was extricated and helped away by the Red Cross.  When this happened the watching crowd would seep onto the street, and never seemed to quite get back to its original limits, with the result that it seemed more dangerous to be an onlooker than a rider! Watching was a bit like watching stock car racing – you’re waiting for the crashes. At one point we visited some friends of Cristina who live overlooking one of the main venues, and had a bird’s-eye view.

At another point we retired for sustenance to a bar which had erected a special kiosk outside from whence came the most delicious aromas of frying meats. Inside, we managed to corner a table as a group left, and crowded around to satisfy our hunger, conversation mostly being drowned by some fairly un-tuneful and very merry singing from a group at another table.

Finally, tired and full and happy, we wound our way to the house of Cristina’s friends, Rosa and Luis, who kindly let us crash there for the night.  No-one who offered me a ride will ever know how tempted I was.  This whole, crazy scene reminded me so much of stuff we used to do as kids back in the 50s, daring each other to go higher or faster or whatever. I did resist though – perhaps another time, because it’s a very addictive kind of crazy!


Tidbits from an Ordinary Week

It’s Saturday night, well, it’s actually Sunday morning, a long afternoon siesta has left me wide-awake this madrugada, even though my apartment is just sufficiently far enough away from the hum of fiesta, which is in full swing in the town square, and all is tranquil.   So I was wondering on what about my very pleasant week I want to muse.

Should I write about the lovely morning I whiled away in interesting conversation, overlooking little harbour, whilst the tenders to the fishing boats, which were out working, waited and bobbed on the swell that was rushing in from the Atlantic and breaking dramatically on the rocks further down the coast?

Should I write about the casual stroll around Los Cristianos I enjoyed with a good friend one balmy evening, sampling some great chocolate cake, and joking with a couple of the Senegalese street sellers, and that one of them gave me a pretty bracelet?

Should I write about the way the brilliant white waves creamed in from the gunmetal grey seas, while the sun shot pale, imitation rays into the murky sky from its hiding place behind the blackest cloud of all one morning walk?

Should I write about the afternoon I spent with a good friend chatting, teaching her a bit of English whilst she taught me Spanish, over mellow lattes in the pretty and tranquil courtyard of a small rural hotel, about ten minutes up into the hills?

Should I write about how one, chained-to-desk day emails, and Facebook notes, and Tweets and other peoples’ blogs kept me laughing away?  How great is this thing called internet, that even in my solitude it brings me jokes and smiles and funnies from friends and strangers alike?

Should I write about how good Trix was when I took her to the vet for her annual check up and vaccinations?  How she’s put on 5 kilos since her last weigh-in — ouch, and needs some expensive dentistry, but otherwise seems to be still the puppy in body that she is in spirit!   What a nice, new vet we have too.  I generally find that vets are nice people, actually, come to think of it, but that’s not always true of doctors – hmmm.  Food for thought there!

Should I write about Friday evening, about following la Ruta de Tapas in Los Cristianos?   Another balmy evening mixing good food and wine, mellow weather and great company. Yes, maybe I’ll write about that.

Should I write about the fiesta in my home town?  The fireworks?  The street performers?  The food? Yeah, maybe that’s worth a word or two as well, but you know what?   This has been a perfectly ordinary week……..and the sad thing is, I’ve been feeling a bit jaded, so I needed to remind myself just how good it’s been in its own quiet way……..and  **yawn** I think this glass of smooth, rich El Lomo might be just what the sandman ordered.


The Friendliness of Chirche Lightyears from the Coastal Grumps

Chirche is a tiny village, about five or ten minutes directly vertical from Guia de Isora in the South of Tenerife.  I’ve only ever been here for this, particular festival, El Día de las Tradiciónes (The Day of Traditions), so I don’t know what it’s like on an average, working day.  I must rectify that soon, but I imagine it’s quiet.  It clings for dear life to the hillside, and these twisting, narrow streets were never made for motor cars.  The last time I came, my car overheated (OK, it’s not the most modern car in the world, but it is sturdy and reliable usually).

Happily, for Sunday’s fiesta the local town hall had provided transport so neither the overheating nor parking were problems.  A mini bus did the circuit from, what we would probably call the county seat, Guia de Isora, below up to the village, and we were there in time for the first trip before it got too hot.   A vast improvement on my last visit, what with the overheated car and no space to park it!

This year’s festival had to battle for attention not only with the World Cup Final, but also 46º heat ….. and it came out a winner, although it seemed to be a bit less well-attended than the last time I went.  This was the tenth year that the village had turned out to produce what is something like a living museum or even a theatrical production which one can walk through.  The entire village goes about its business as it would have done somewhere between 100 and 50 years ago.

Here candles are being made the old way, from beeswax.  The finished product on the right, and those in progress on the left of the picture.  The hot wax is spooned over the thread time and time again, each layer is cooled and then doused again, until the required thickness is reached.  Can you imagine the time it takes?  Can you imagine spending days and days doing this, just so that you can have light after sundown?

Although Guanche artifacts have been  found in Chirche, this festival portrays life as it was around a hundred to fifty years ago.  It really isn’t that long.  It was my grandparents, my parents time, and even my own infancy.  The scales in the recreation of the local “corner shop”, the flyspray cannister lying atop a wardrobe, some of the products on display in the shop reminded me of my own childhood, so even then, things were somewhat “globally available”.  Since I was brought up in a fairly countryfied area, and my crumbling home had once been a farmhouse, it was easy to identify with much of what I saw around me.  It felt as much like going back in time as witnessing the past of this island.

Life wasn’t that easy for my family when I was little, and yet we did buy our flour from the corner shop, we didn’t have to produce it ourselves.  The lady in the picture above is toasting seeds to make gofio, which was a huge part of the staple diet of Tenerife, and remains popular.  Cereals would have grown on the hillsides surrounding the village, and be brought home for toasting, but apparently sometimes the rhizomes of ferns were also used in the distant past.  The tradition probably was brought to the islands by the Guanches who, it is now widely thought,  came from North African Berber tribes, who also made a similar kind of meal.

This lady is carrying out the next step, grinding the toasted seeds by hand.  A heavy grindstone is pulled around and around, as you can see, until the  seeds become flourlike.  This is how it was done in this, small village.  In other areas huge grindstones were pulled by donkeys, horses and even camels.  Gofio can still be bought in the island’s supermarkets, and to be honest it’s an acquired taste.  Austin has learned to mix it with honey and almonds to make a delicious dessert, and it is used to thicken soups and stews, and to make a really healthy porridge-style breakfast – very high in fibre, people!

Walking around the village, despite the intense heat, was a treat.  Two things struck me hard.  The first was how the whole village seems to join in wholeheartedly.  Every age group takes part, from grannies (and how they manage daily life on a sheer hillside I will never understand!  Seems to me, given a diet of gofio and that kind of exercise each day, they must be incredibly healthy!) to babes in arms.

Above is the old schoolroom, complete with blackboard and children who don’t seem to mind being dressed in costume!  I didn’t see one sulky face all morning – not even from the class’s naughty boy, whom you can spot kneeling in the corner.  I’m sorry about the quality of this photo.  The schoolroom was dark, I’m thinking probably even in the fifties there was no electricity, plus the old houses were designed to keep as cool as possible in summer, which usually meant having only small windows, and thick, thick walls, which kept out the summer swelter and kept in the warmth in winter.  Also, there were so many people vying for space to observe or snap, and I was too polite to hog the vantage point I had …….. another lesson learned – must be bolder!  There were children helping the maypole dancers, playing games in the street or helping with chores, just as they would have been doing a hundred years ago, and every one of them with a smile on their face.

It goes without saying that a hundred or even fifty years ago, there were no video games, no television, no fast food, so children had to make their own amusements.  Below is a selection of the types of homemade instruments which they used to make.

Maybe there is some special karma attached to living in this village, because I rarely remember a time when I’ve met so many friendly people.  People who would stop in the hot sun and wait whilst you fiddle with your camera so you can snap them.

People who are quite at ease being photographed showing off their pride in their traditions….not all instruments were homemade!

People who are willing to attire themselves in heavy, traditional clothing in a 46º heat (might even have got hotter after we left!), so that they can keep this link with their past, and show it off to others.

This lady was crocheting what looked as if it was going to be a small doily, and surrounding her are displayed other examples of lace and crotchet work – most looking newly made, and proving that old crafts are not nearly dead here!  The really nice thing is that it looks as if future generations are happy to go on keeping these traditions alive.  It’s something I’ve noticed often in the folk music and dance groups which I see regularly on tv – no way are these groups composed just of the old folk.  The folklore of Tenerife seems to be in good and safe hands for quite a while yet.

Now this is a tradition many people will be happy no longer is widely used.  This gentleman is preparing a goatskin for use in making gofio or cheese.  The ingredients for either were placed inside to be molded and strained.  Goat is still widely eaten here, and is a treat.  I’ve never had it badly cooked.  The use of the skins?  Well, there was nothing else, back when, and as with other meat products, there wasn’t much waste.  They were different times.

There were demonstrations of bread making in big, old ovens, agriculture as it was (and still, sometimes is) here, the making of roof tiles, which had been the village’s only industry outside of agriculture, and a host of other stuff, and highlight of the day, a mock wedding, but we ran out time and couldn’t stay to watch.  We had a glimpse of the wedding dress, laid out on the bridal bed in a restored house, but no time to see the bride, sadly.  As I mentioned before, we did pop into the pretty church for a few moments, and then we had to be on our way.

We just missed the mini bus, and took refuge from the sun in a nearby bar, which was built directly into the rock face, providing welcome coolness.  I have to mention it was the only kind of disappointment of the morning.  We paid around €15 each for a very average gazpacho, stone cold garlic bread, croquetas (one ration of chicken and one of tuna, which were indistinguishable), a couple of very cold, very welcome beers and best – a plate of papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes), the island’s speciality, all of which came with indifference or a shy smile, depending on who served us.  It was a bad choice of venue, but nicely decorated, as you can see above, and reminiscent of the coastal resorts, where that kind of service is the norm.  It’s a great shame that tourists don’t get out more to meet the “real” people of Tenerife, these people who are so kind and happy and gracious.  I’ve never been to a fiesta of any kind where I wasn’t made to feel enormously welcome, and Chirche would be top of a list like that.  In some ways I don’t blame the kids who work as waiters or shop assistants down in resortland.  Firstly, they aren’t given the proper training in most cases, so they don’t know how to respond to people, and secondly, I couldn’t put up with the sort of attitudes and backchat they get from a lot of their customers.  Frequently, once you have made a contact, their demeanour does change.  Yes, I do realize that the onus is on the supplier of whatever service you are buying to provide that service with a smile, but scratch just a bit and you might find that the nice young waiter comes from Chirche, or somewhere similar.

When I move on from Tenerife, and return for a visit, one thing I intend to do is to stay in the casa rural (rural hotel) here, in the middle of Chirche, and embrace the relaxed and happy lifestyle of its people.

One thing this day taught me.  I’ve always enjoyed snapping, and never really been too interested in video, but watching the maypole dancing for quite a while I would have loved to have videoed it.  Stupidly, because of my lack of interest I’ve never bothered to figure out how to work the video selection on my camera – job for this weekend!  Next year I won’t clash to the World Cup at least!


Party Like a Local: No 5 of 10 things to do in Tenerife which won’t cost a fortune

In my experience no-one knows how to party more than the Senegalese, but even a Senegalese friend once said to me that he’d never seen so many excuses for celebration as there are on this island! I don’t have the patience to work it out, but if you are mathematically minded, I would not be at all surprised if you could  prove that there is a fiesta or a romeria or a carnival somewhere in Tenerife every week of the year.

About Carnaval, I will try to be brief because there is, simply, too much to say, and most of it has already been said  by people far better qualified than I.  I touched on it last year, and found some YouTube videos I thought reflected the atmosphere quite well

The Carnaval in Tenerife is the second biggest in the world, the first being in Rio.  It’s the same thing as Mardi Gras, for my American friends, which means it is the day we know as Shrove Tuesday in England (oh my gosh, when we get to eat pancakes in the UK!).  It’s also known as Fat Tuesday, because it marks the beginning of Lent, so that in days of old all fats and goodies were gobbled up before fasting before Easter.  It is hugely important here.  Banks close at 12.30 usually during Carnaval week – oh, not only in Santa Cruz, but throughout the island.  This so that revellers can sleep in the afternoons, because they will be dancing all night, getting home at dawn and a quick change before going to work.  Yes, some people do that every day for the week.  The entire celebration actually begins a couple of weeks before that, with various competitions, but moves out onto the streets in that final week.  The final act is known as the Burial of the Sardine, and after that a kind of watered down version takes place in other municipalities – Puerto de la Cruz and Los Cristianos most notably, but elsewhere too… much for fasting for Lent!!   There is no obligation to get legless every night.  In fact, I know lots of people who get high just on the dancing and the vibe, which makes it a very cheap night, especially if you share a car, although buses run all night to different parts of the island, which means no-one will fall asleep at the wheel, or just wait until it comes to a town near you.  Fancy dress, by the way, is optional, but indubitably adds to the fun!  And the dancing?  Salsa rules, but if you can’t it’s really easy to watch and pick up the basic steps – NOBODY will care about how good you are!

Next on the list, so far as partying goes, would be a local fiesta.  Every town on the island has one usually to mark the feast day of its patron saint.  If it’s your first year living here you will know when it’s coming up when they begin to put up the bunting at the beginning of the week, and the town square sprouts barriers, portable bars  and portaloos.  In Los Abrigos I always knew that was when it was time to move into the back bedroom for the week.

It was founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, who wondered about why the devil should have all the best tunes, but I figure that the popes of yore knew a thing or two as well, because essentially these are supposed to be religious festivals, but the night time is devoted to music, whether it’s more salsa, folk or just plain pop .  Usually, at least on the Sunday of the week, the statues are taken from the local church, bedecked with flowers and ribbons and candles, and paraded through the streets, sometimes this happens on other days as well, and the procession is always accompanied by loud, and I mean LOUD rockets.  So far, I haven’t delved into the origin of those.  I’m betting on warding off evil spirits maybe.    In coastal towns they are taken down to the harbour and out to sea.  The idea being that they will bless the land or the ocean and bring in plentiful bounty (I wonder if anyone has told them about over-fishing in the North Atlantic?  But, hey,  I digress).  An open air mass is said before or after the procession returns, depending on where you are, or how the priest is feeling on the day.

Blessings and prayers having been taken care of, the statues are next placed so that they have a ringside seat for one of the best firework displays you will ever, ever see.  When I eventually got to go to Disney World the only thing which disappointed was the firework display in Magic Kingdom because the ones here are equally as good.  Sometimes all of that happens on the Saturday night, and is followed by a more seriously religious version during the daytime on Sunday, like I said, it depends on where you are or who’s organized it or whatever.  If you are somewhere like Los Cristianos please remember this is NOT a tourist attraction, this is part of the local culture, the fireworks are part of the celebration, and not an attraction that starts bang on time, go to Disney World if you want punctuality.    After the fireworks, there is dancing till dawn again, in the local square or designated area. for a list of fiestas throughout the island.  You would be most unlucky to be here for a couple of weeks and not find one!

If you look at that list you will see that some fiestas are described as romerias.  Romerias to my mind are more like a harvest festival kind of celebration, although they take place throughout the year, but then the climate here means that growth is a continual thing, so that there is no harvest season as such.  Romerias, for instance, happen in inland villages, and center around a weekend procession with an agricultural theme.  Carts pulled by oxen and animals are very much part of the parade, and decorations are more, well, kind of harvest-like, as well as the usual bunting.

For me these are the best if you want a local experience, and a sense of the island’s history.  They are most definitely not aimed at tourists, but as a foreigner you are made more than welcome.  Canarians love to share their culture.  There will be ladies in Canarian dress walking around offering you bites of gofio kneaded together with nuts and honey, empanadas or local cheeses swimming in mojo (no…you’ll have to look those up or wait for when I talk about it again).  Sometimes there is an entire free meal, meatballs, rabbit stew or something authentic, although I did have paella once, and that is Spanish not Canarian.  The drink is not free, but is way cheaper than in tourist resorts of course, and sometimes there is a glass of wine included, although I suspect La Crisis will be curtailing some of these goodies this year.

Once the parade is over, mass said, and thanks given, local dance groups take over the town square to demonstrate their skills.  These Baile de Magos (peasant dances), the ladies in their dirndl skirts and the guys in their waistcoats and cummerbunds remind me of the English country dancing we used to do at school.  I suppose that somehow or other maybe all the folk culture of Europe can be connected.  After the display is over, as dusk begins to settle, a band strikes up for – guess what – dancing till dawn – again.

You will find information here about dates of romerias

Joining in any of these events will give you a much better idea of who Canarians really are.  I have never felt more welcome, as a stranger, than at any local romeria.

There are other one-off fiestas too, like El Día de las Tradiciones in the tiny village of Chirche, above Guia de Isora or Las Fiestas del Mayo in any town with the word cruz (cross) in its title – it’s the celebration of the Holy Cross.  If you want to check these out, and if you can manage it, try researching the Canarian sites rather than the English language ones to get a wider view, many of them, like the ones I’ve included here, now have English translations. Websites for local town halls are useful, just put in ayuntamiento guia de isora tenerife, for instance, or any other municipality and you will find the section for fiestas or community events.  Some of these sites are really excellent, modern and full of information, others are a bit lacking, but will give you some basic information which you can check with other sources.

There are also events like Noche de San Juan in June, which you won’t find on any official calendars.  On this shortest night of the year people gather around bonfires and rid themselves of the emotional or spiritual rubbish they have attracted, and make resolutions for the future.  If you have anything symbolic of the bad luck you’ve had and which is safe to burn, then you can toss it into the fire.    To signifiy your “rebirth” you jump over the fire.  Not, of course, the main bonfire, which rivals those of Guy Fawkes Night in England, but a smaller one you can make to your own specifications.  More usual, if you attend a bonfire on the beach you can wash away the evil by going for a midnight swim.  You might think sub-tropical climate, June, swim – ok, but believe me it can be chilly, so have something warm to grab when you come out!  There is some control over the larger events these days, but many are privately organized, just like the November bonfires I remember as a kid.  I’ve been going to the one in Las Galletas on the beach the last, few years, and it is amazing.  Most people take a barbeque or a picnic, and there is always music, people with guitars or African drums.  Really, it’s a senseless, fun night.  If it falls on a weeknight it will probably mostly be over by 1am, but if it’s a Friday or a Saturday expect to watch the dawn come up.

If you are visiting and are here for New Year and find the entertainment in your hotel a bit boring, then head for the town square of the nearet municipality to see what’s going on.  Here in El Médano there is the full “works” – salsa band, fireworks (of course) and bars selling drink and food…..and need I add, dancing till dawn :=)

There is more, things have come to me as I’ve been typing, but, quite honestly you’ll get too bored to read any further.  If you are living here – ask around, check the town hall, the local newspapers for dates, and if you are coming to visit then check these things out online.  It really doesn’t cost a bomb to have a good time!

This post was part of a series, here are the others:

Be a beach bum!

Take a drive through the Teide National Park

Barbeque in the “Great Outdoors”

Mooch the Markets

Party like a local!

Follow local sports

Free Summer concerts

Try Shanks’s Pony!

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Noche de San Juan

I couldn’t quite take in the fact that I had lived her for twenty years and hadn’t taken in the full significance and fun of this festival until last year. That was possibly because it seemed such a spontaneous and friendly festival. Of course I read it all afterwards. In many places in Spain it is a very organized festival (Alicante area for example), even here in the Northern towns the local councils organize music and entertainment, but here in the South the celebrations are “amateur”, and all the more magical for it.

The familiar attempt was made by the Church to Christianize the celebration, naming it for St John the Baptist, but very much at heart it remains Pagan, a celebration of Summer, a washing away and discarding of the unwanted and unloved. Personally, it is Fall which makes me feel that way, but I can go along with this one very happily, living in this climate, Fall doesn’t seem quite the same anyway.

I suppose some organization took place, because a huge bonfire had been built at the end of the beach in Las Galletas, and properly roped off for security, though I don’t remember seeing either police or Protección Civil anywhere around. It was lit on the stroke of midnight.

That would have been just after the hardy ones amongst the crowd (not including me) had done the ritual cleansing by venturing into the waves. It isn’t the going in which requires the courage, it’s the coming out into the chill night air. Even the hottest days here are followed by cool nights. The inside temperatures, with walls retaining the sun’s warmth can mount up and become claggy, but outside the night breeze is always soothing.

Although, last year, after I “discovered” this festival I was determined to organize friends to “do it right” and barbeque and all, somehow it escaped me, and we picniced instead. We also didn’t have the tambones. My fault again, Geert had them there ready, but Draman said no, and he was the musician in the group, so I went along with his decision, and then everyone was asking “Where are the drums?” !!! I should have known better. Draman hadn’t been before so how was he to know?

It would have been so cool to jump over the fire the way people were doing! Their own, small fires, that is, not the huge bonfire! This is also symbolic of new beginnings and cleansing, not to mention confronting your own fears. Next year I am determined to do it differently. Goodness knows who will still be here then, but this time last year I had decided that Noche de San Juan would mark my departure. I was wrong. The intervening time has been fruitful, happy and rewarding. So this year I will not be so rash. What I will say, however, is that it will mark my reassessment of my situation – if I am still here.

Cristina, Severine,Tomas, Lamine y Mohamed