It was only a few days after the Moors and Christians Festival, yet in our local town of Baza, they were already gearing up for the Cruces de Mayo Festival. According to the Baza Ayuntamiento Facebook page , it was to run from midday on Friday 5th through to midday Sunday 7th May. They even provided a handy little map showing the locations of the crosses 🙂
My parents were staying with us and so Saturday was a perfect opportunity to show them around Baza as well as check out the festival.
But first of all I thought I should find out what the Cruces to Mayo (Crosses of May) festival was all about. No surprise there then !
The history behind the Cruces de Mayo festival
As the story goes, in the fourth century AD, St Helen’s son Emperor Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, and by it the words “In hoc signo vincis” (With this sign, you shall be victorious), that would help him win a battle he was losing. He ordered his troops to build him a large cross, which they then carried into battle and conquered their enemy.
This inspired a family conversion to Christianity and St Helena (his mother) to travel to Jerusalem in search of Jesus’ cross. In Jerusalem On Calvary Hill, traditionally considered the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, she found three bloody logs hidden.
In order to establish which one was authentic, she placed the logs one by one over sick people, and even dead people, who were cured or resuscitated at the touch of the True Cross. St Helen then became a champion for the cross, urging people to continue worshipping even after her death.
In reality though, the Pagan May Day celebrations must have been of influence somehow as the May festivities date back to Roman times !
The festival appears to have been revived in the 18th Century but went out of practice either during the Civil war or slightly later.
The concept of a making the festival a competition started in Cordoba in 1954 and has been adopted in other places since then.
What happens during the Cruces de Mayo Festival ?
It is actually more than a festival – it is also a contest.
The Catholic hermandades (brotherhoods) and neighbourhood associations compete for prizes for the best-decorated cross from the Ayuntamiento (town hall).
They choose a square or street, and decorate the area around the cross with typical and traditional items. The crosses are judged according to criteria along the lines of: the decoration of the cross itself, the floral variety used, the lighting, and use of existing environmental elements (trees, walls etc).
In spite of the religious origins of this festival, don’t expect anything short of the traditional Spanish fiesta. Each brotherhood or neighbourhood association sets up a bar next to its cross to serve drinks and tapas. A price list is posted. Sometimes you have to by a voucher at the ticket desk and use this as currency for the purchase.
And then there’s the music. The different brotherhood or neighbourhood association will have different styles; most very traditional other more contemporary.
When is the Cruces de Mayo Festival and where can I see it ?
The Cruces de Mayo festival is always at the very end of April or beginning of May. Often it is on the nearest Sunday to May 1st. Click on this link if you want to know where in Spain the Cruces de Mayo is celebrated 🙂
Our experience of the Cruces de Mayo Festival
The map provided by the town hall was a godsend (no pun intended). It led us to some beautiful squares that we hadn’t even known existed. Having read about the traditional offerings placed alongside the crosses I kept my eyes peeled for what we might see. As you would expect from a rural part of Spain, there were plenty of old farming implements displayed. I still don’t understand the scissors sticking out of the apple mind you !
There were plenty of people of every age enjoying themselves, food and drink was flowing, music was blasting and the whole atmosphere was fun and relaxed
Some of the temporary bars offered tapas, whilst others offered a traditional meals (migas and paella seemed typical). We had a cerveza here and a copa de vino there. In addition to the normal tapas that accompanies drinks, we were also given broad beans. Now I have never eaten raw broad beans, but they are actually not too bad. Its like podding giant peas. I tried to find out the significance of the beans, as there were boxes of them in many of the bars and I hadn’t seen them served prior to the festival.
Although broad beans were mentioned several times in relation to the festival, it always said ‘the traditional broad beans’ without further explanation.
A friend of ours asked some local Spanish neighbours. The answer she got was, and I quote “May is when they are in season, tender and sweet. They are very popular, so everybody eats them. Since they are in their prime, they have been adopted into the fiesta. Nothing more. Sow in February, harvest in May” (thanks Esther).
All in all we have a very enjoyable day. We discovered new parts of Baza, found some new bars and got to experience another Spanish festival 🙂
We can’t wait to find out when the next festival is what it’s all about.
So … Who are one foot in the cave ?
We (Danny and Josie) have spent the last 10 years living and working in the Caribbean. In 2015 we decided we wanted to move closer to family and friends so bought a cave house in the Granada region of Andalucia, Spain. We moved there full time in January 2017. Now we write about our experiences of cave living and how we are adapting to life in Spain.
We also have a Facebook page full of pictures, experiences and information that we have found useful along the way. If its your thing, you can also follow us on Instagram 🙂
5 words related to this blog entry …
Competition – El Concurso.
Map (city or metro) – El Plano.
Neighbourhood – El Barrio.
Wine Glass – La Copa.
Beans – Las Judias.