Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Great Fiesta

The religious fiestas in the Canaries are too numerous to mention, and peak during the summer months.
Here in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera it is no different, but a special fiesta of our local saint 'Nuestra Señora de Los Reyes' is starting today and will continue until the 7th of January 2013 ! 'Los Reyes' (Epiphany) also is the celebration of Christmas in the Canaries and X-mas  presents are given on that day, Jan. 6th. 
This year It is the 'bajada' which is celebrated only every 5 years and means that the statue of the saint is going to be taken from the church to be processed through every hamlet and part of the parish and staying temporarily in many different locations. The processions are noisy affairs with loud firecrackers being shot into the air along the way. A traditional dance is being performed by many worshippers during the processions, accompanied by 'chacarras y tambores', the former being a locally made very large type of castanets, of which there is a 'male' and a 'female', the 'female' having a slightly higher pitch. 
Procession passing Las Orijamas,Valle Gran Rey, 2008
The 'tambores' are homemade goatskin drums with a muted snare sound.The percussion beats a steady, restrained rhythm that could put you almost into a trance.To all this the participants chant a repetitive song that has a distinctly North African feel and probably originates in pre-Christian times. So the processions go from place to place, stopping here and there for prayers, followed by shouts of 'VIVA...'
The 'ramo'
 Ahead of the processions, and even ahead of the statue of the saint, the 'ramo' is being carried which is an artfully bound bouquet of fruit and vegetables of considerable weight,and even the fabrication of this offering is celebrated with music, food and drink by the volunteers and onlookers. 
'Chacarras y tambores'

Culture aside, the fiesta is a perfect occasion for just having a good time. The secular parts of the proceedings usually begin after mass and mostly start with Canarian folk music followed on stage by salsa and merengue bands  who play for the dancers and revellers until the early hours of the morning through professional (and loud) sound equipment, often even until the sun has risen. Stalls serve food and drink throughout the proceedings and young and old are having a party.
The main program for the 'bajada' 2012/13 can be found on this page (look for 'descargar programa'):
Bangers going off in the valley
Church 'Ermita de los Reyes'

Idyllic setting, but mind your step coming
 down the steep path after a night's  dr...ancing.

Note: All photos in this post
        were taken during the
      last 'bajada' in 2007/8

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