Fiestas in Granada, Andalucía – Día de la Cruz

The Day of the Cross – A Celebration of Spring   

Do you like Spanish fiestas? Then I think you’d enjoy this one. At the weekend we joined in the Day of the Cross Festivities, one of Granada’s most popular fiestas. More than sixty crosses decorated squares, streets, patios, parks, schools, churches and even shop windows. Each cross adorned with flowers, particularly carnations, and surrounded with everyday, domestic utensils.

The Cross, Casa de las Pisa, Granada. Lecrín Valley holidayhome

The Cross in the San Juan de Dios Museum, Granada

The feast has its origins in a Roman fiesta in honour of the Goddess Flora when tribute was paid to a tree… the tree of life? A celebration of Spring, life, fecundity and fertility, not just of the earth but also of women.

The Church, far from prohibiting these pagan customs, gave them a Christian meaning by substituting the tree for the cross, symbol of the death and resurrection of Christ. This Christian version was instituted in IV century to commemorate the discovery of the Vera Cruz ( the Real Cross).

Granada in Fiestas, Lecrín Valley holiday villa

A special day for children too

The first written references to the feast in Andalucía, date from XVII century when the brotherhoods appeared in connection with the Cross. It was in Granada that the ordinary folk celebrated in public places. People brought their best domestic wares to adorn the crosses, drinking and dancing around the Cross until the early hours. The well-to-do decorated their patios, showing off their wealth with the objects they used to adorn the Cross. Children made their own crosses and carried them round the streets asking for a “chavico” or ochavo, a coin of the time, to spend on sweets.

Donation for the Cross, Granada Lecrín Valley villa

“Give him a coin woman, there is no worse pain in life than the pain of being tight fisted in Granada”

The bright copper pots and pans you’ll see at nearly all the crosses symbolize the hope that they will be filled by a plentiful harvest. Colourful touches are added with the mantones de manila (Manila shawls) or the Jarapas (rugs) woven in the Alpujarra. The traditional blue and white, Fajalauza pottery is another popular element used for decoration. Look out for an apple pierced by some scissors, you’ll find one at nearly all the crosses. This is the “pero”, (apple in the Granadan argot but also “but” in Castillian). It’s place is to remind people not to say “What a lovely Cross but….”

The day of the cross, Granada, Lecrín Valley villa holiday

At the foot of this cross, you can just see the “pero”

Thankfully, after years of neglect, this fiesta was reinstated in Granada and is now one of the most important of the year, together with Corpus Christi.

On a beautiful spring day, we enjoyed just ambling round the centre of Granada and the Albaicín, discovering the crosses; every now and then coinciding with a flamenco group dancing and singing. All the main neighbourhoods programme musical activities during the day but we also found some impromptu shows drawing large crowds.

Post and photos by Susan at casatagomago.com