Tenerife is the largest sibling of the 14 million year-old family of the Canary Islands and true to its Spanish heritage, hosts some of the most colourful fiestas and carnivals in Spain. The towns and villages of Tenerife come alive throughout the year with numerous celebrations, festivals and “romerías” (lively pilgrimages held in honour of the Virgin Mary or a local Patron Saint), many which stem from religious roots.
One of the most popular annual festivals is the vibrant Tenerife Carnival, which takes place throughout the island the week prior to Lent. The city of Santa Cruz hosts the largest and liveliest carnival on the island and has become one of Europe’s largest and most exotic carnival street parties. This magnificent parade is so spectacular that it is said to rival Rio in splendour, size and glamour. Each year a different theme is chosen, embracing anything from Ancient Egypt to Disney characters and both visitors and locals are encouraged to join in the fun.
Other festivals of interest in Tenerife include:
Corpus Christi – La Orotava – June Corpus Christi is perhaps the most famous and inspiring of Tenerife’s religious festivals. Vast, intricate coloured carpets of flower petals and volcanic sands are laid out in the streets for the processions of local people and dignitaries, members of the Island Cabildo (Government), the queen of the festival and the municipal band to pass over. The most spectacular of the carpets is made with three tonnes of sand on the Town Hall Square and is a composition of biblical scenes.
Fiesta del Carmen – Puerto de La Cruz – July The Fiesta del Carmen is celebrated on the 16 th July in honour of Our Lady Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen. During the celebration, the statue of the Virgin Mary is carried in a procession, preceded by dancers with coloured ribbons, and is taken from the chapel to the beach or jetty where boats adorned with coloured flags sound their horns. Back on land, the procession takes the Virgin to an altar set up on the beach, followed by a firework display.
Romeria de San Roque – Garachico – August Originating in the 17 th Century, the Romería de San Roque is immensely popular throughout Tenerife. The islanders flock to the route taken by the procession along which the Saint is carried. When the procession reaches its destination, the fiesta begins. At the same time, the fishermen organise their own festivities carrying the image of the saint along the volcanic coastline of Garachico.
Hearts of Tejina – Tejina – August Los “Corazones de Tejina” is an unusual festival starring three enormous hearts made of flowers, cakes and fruit, a legacy from the prehistoric islanders, who used palm and flower arches to decorate their harvest festival celebrations in July and August. A curious blend of pagan and religion, the festival of hearts features song, dance and poetry and attracts visitors from all over the island.
Three village streets – “Calle de Arriba”, “Calle de Abajo” and “El Pico” – compete with each other trying to outdo the other with their beautifully decorated hearts. Each heart standard is based on a religious or folk theme and features two hearts and a bunch of flowers on the top and is decorated with cakes called ‘tortas’. The hearts are intricately adorned by hand with ribbons, buttons, cords, anything available and paraded through the village streets to the church to be ritually offered to the patron saint. Several days of intense celebrations ensue.
Fiesta de San Andrés – Icod de los Vinos – November The “Fiesta de San Andres” in Icod de los Vinos, one of Tenerife’s oldest towns, 22 km west of Puerto de la Cruz, celebrates annually the opening of the wine cellars. The name translates literally to Place of Wine and this region produces some of the best wine on the island. During this fiesta the young people of Icod slide down the steep streets on greased pinewood boards at breakneck speed, a reminder of when the wine barrels were rolled out. Each family opens up its cellar and the new wine is tasted or ‘baptised’ among friends and visitors alike. Isas, folías and malagueñas, the traditional folk songs of the island, can be heard from all around. With a special focus on the island’s culture, Tenerife Tourism Corporation has joined efforts with local authorities to keep traditions alive and accessible to visitors.
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