3 May 2010

Alicante y Las Cruces de Mayo

There's a holiday held each year in the oldest neighbourhood in Alicante that I'd caught a mention of in passing once or twice (heard someone speak of it, read a plaque somewhere), but never got to see or knew when it was. Well I stumbled upon it quite accidentally this year, thanks to the internet! It's amazing the random things one stumbles upon in this virtual world...

painting on a wall depicting the emblems of the Barrio

 The Barrio de la Santa Cruz is the prettiest neighbourhood in town (basically the only one worth visiting!) with its traditional white houses piled on top of each other, narrow streets with plenty of steps going up (and down!) and flowers everywhere (at least in Spring). It's basically the old medieval/arab town, on the flanks of the Castillo de Santa Barbara and leading down to the Cathedral and the Rambla (one of the main avenues, which used to be a dry riverbed!). A small chapel -which legend has is built on the foundations of an old mosque- overlooks the neighbourhood, and one of the most interesting Holy Week Processions starts out from there on the Wednesday before Easter (I actually saw it this year, was too busy -still am- but do you think it's too late to write about it now?).

From May 1st to 3rd this neighbourhood (as well as many other towns in Spain and Latin America) celebrates the "Cruces de Mayo". Music fills the air, as does the noise of firecrackers and children playing and people talking. The residents decorate their streets with streamers and lights and flowers and set up Crosses covered with flowers.

my favourite in the street decorations

Cross on a corner

Legend (and Wikipedia) has it that this holiday is rooted in the search for the "True Cross" by the Byzantine Empress Helena after her son Constantine I won a seemingly impossible victory over a superior army when he had a vision of a cross in the sky and heard the words "In hoc signo vincis" (by this sign you shall conquer). He became the first Christian Roman emperor and declared religious tolerance (as opposed to persecution of Christians by his predecessors) throughout the Empire.

I wanted to head down to the "Barrio" this weekend to check out this holiday for the first time, but bad weather and tennis kept me home. Well today being the last day, and since I have something of a stubborn streak... I decided to at least check out the dĂ©corations and Crosses this morning once I got out of rehab. I knew there wouldn't be anything major going on at 10am (most people were probably still sleeping off the previous night's festivities), but at least I'd see something! 

And have the chance to share with you another glimpse into Alicante's religious and festive culture. So, here goes! (as usual I had trouble limiting my choice of photos, apologies in advance! remember to click on them for larger views)

one of several locales set up for the eating/drinking portion of the fiesta

had its own flower Cross inside with a flag

inspired by the old cartoon "la Abeja Maya"

"pretty in pink"?

steps leading up to the Castle and its park

looking down through the rooftops to the decorated streets

space for more fiesta?


This next street looked to be getting ready for the forthcoming festivities in South Africa...

and seem quite optimistic as to the outcome! ;o)

I chatted for a while with this lady who was fixing up one of the Crosses (spraying with water, setting out candles...) and realised there are some "adopted" Alicantinos involved in the festivities:

possibly the 1st prize winner

Heading on up towards the Chapel, this one is a good representation of  Alicantin... the red and blue waves represent the Paseo de la Explanada (including the folding chairs the elderly enjoy sitting on to chat on sunny Sundays) and the cloth with the "Santa Faz" held up two doves.

Ermita de la Santa Cruz

with its Cross

The morning was unfortunately mostly grey and hazy (not great for photos), but on occasion the sun did come out... and made for nice views over the city:

looking up at the Castillo de Santa Barbara

looking down at the city and the bay

On the way back down there were little reminders that it had rained over the weekend and this was the third day of the festivities...

missing a few carnations?

preparing the streets for a new day


I think this last one was my favourite... three guesses why? ;o)

It's a good thing I went when I did... a few hours later a storm front rolled in and left a downpour of hail and rain...

storm front heading out to sea

Which one was your favourite?
Next year I'll have to pay closer attention to the dates and perhaps join in the festivities in a more active way. ;o)


  1. Okay, I give: why was the nautical one your favorite? I loved the one you called "inspired" and was enchanted with the red and white one towards the end. Thanks for the Alicante festival from the Middle Ages to now!

  2. Gorgeous! You have great taste - I love the last one too!

  3. DJan, I thought the "Inspired" one was lovely too! But the nautical one tugs on my marine biologist heartstrings! ;o)

    Dive Girl, I thought you might! :p


Hey there! Yes you! The quiet one in the back... I'd love it if you hung out for a bit and shared your thoughts!

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