Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Many Festivals of Tenerife – A Guide to 2012

Carnivals in Tenerife, also known as ‘Carnavals’, are mostly held in February over Lent. The original meaning of the word carnaval means ‘to give up meat’ and encompassed other luxury foods, hence Lent and Pancake Day in the UK. Tenerife is famous for the spectacular parades, costumes and street parties, especially the one in Santa Cruz, which is the largest on the island.

One thing you need to know before you go on is that all Carnivals in Tenerife feature the ritual of ‘the Burial of the Sardine’ on Ash Wednesday, which symbolises getting rid of excess and being reborn. Strange, but true. Here is your ultimate guide to the best carnivals happening in Tenerife.

The Top Three Carnivals

1. The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife 17th Feb to 22nd Feb 2012

This is a huge celebration that wins in the noise-making and attendance stakes. The street parties don’t start until midnight, there are drag queen marathons and fancy dress is not optional unless you want to stand out like a sore thumb!

Get there early and hold onto your spot near the beginning of the parades to get the best view. (Wear comfortable shoes as you will be on your feet for a long time) Remember your camera as words will not do the parades justice. Plus, make sure you join in, you will have the best carnival experience if you don’t just spectate.

2. The Carnival of Puerto de la Cruz, 16th – 25th February 2012

This Carnival has much of the same buzz and atmosphere as the slightly larger Santa Cruz, it usually starts a day or two later, with the procession of the recently elected Carnival queen. On Ash Wednesday the ‘Burial of the Sardine’ happens, as is the carnival tradition.

Remember to wear black as it is a mourning ceremony and funeral procession, even if it is of a fish! The ceremony ends in fireworks in the harbour, where the sardine is set alight. This Carnival has also recently revived the 19th century tradition of ‘the killing of the snake’, which represents freedom from slavery.

3. Los Cristianos 3rd – 11th March 2012

Held in March, slightly later than the larger two Carnivals, the Los Cristianos Carnival is a much smaller affair and is great if you are planning a holiday to the south of the island, as you won’t have to travel north. There is a huge influx of tourists in the area over the carnival, so make sure you book your holidays early if you want to be close to the action!

The Best of the Rest

These smaller carnivals do not release dates until later on in the year, but if you are planning a holiday here then be sure to check the local tourist boards for information.

· Los Gigantes has a small carnival each year, including a masked ball held in the open air with live music. During the day, there are children’s activities and parades, as well as the main parades in the evenings. And of course, last but not least, they have the ‘Burial of the Sardine’, followed by a ‘Widow’s Ball’.

· a small town called Tacoronte, they have a carnival known as the Piñata Chica, which follows the same pattern as the larger carnivals, but normally takes place over a weekend. On the Saturday morning there is a farmer’s market, followed by the musicians’ procession and a party in the evening. The Sunday is where this carnival really comes into its own - they have a procession of vintage cars, ending with wine tasting. The evening is then filled with celebrations and the traditional ‘Burial of the Sardine’, which takes place at the Plaza La Estacion.

· La Laguna holds their festival in early March, when the weather is getting warmer and there is less chance of rain. This carnival is much less popular with tourists, but still has big street parties, so head here for a more authentic Spanish carnival experience.

· Carnivals in Tenerife get more unusual the smaller they are, in Guimar they celebrate the end of carnival with a spooky street theatre performance, known as ‘Las Burras de Guimar’ (the Donkeys of Guimar). The performance portrays the traditional belief that all witches turn into donkeys on this night. At the end of this performance, the witches are burned alongside the ever-present sardine.

· The highlight of the fiesta in La Orotava is the carpet of flower petals and sand that is made to cover the streets. The whole town participates in planning the designs of the flowers and sand carpets, which depict biblical scenes. These murals are made using all of the different coloured volcanic sands from the surrounding areas


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