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Cultural Attractions and Events - Fiestas
Whilst some sceptical visitors to Lanzarote may suggest that the annual cycle of fiestas are purely laid on for the benefit of tourists, they do actually play an important role in the cultural calendar of both mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, with many events tracing their origins and traditions back to the 14th and 15th Century.
Although some 26 miles north of Playa Blanca, the most spectacular event of the year is always the Arrecife town carnival, and this is celebrated at the beginning of Lent. This is usually a four day long celebration that includes concerts, all night dancing and of course a colourful procession of floats along the seafront. This is one of the most popular events on Lanzarote and is one that attracts thousands of people to line the streets. Part of the tradition of the carnival is the "Parranda de Los Buches" which sees masked fishermen dressed in traditional costumes, dancing and hitting onlookers with dried fish bladders filled with air. The parade ends with an open air party with bands, a fun fair and numerous trade stalls. One word of advice, this party doesn't usually get started until around midnight and is known to keep going until dawn.
The next event of any note always takes place around May 3rd each year, and will probably go unnoticed by most of the visitors to the island, although some may observe that crosses throughout all of the towns and villages on Lanzarote are actually decorated with flowers. This is one of the most deeply rooted religious traditions throughout all of Canaries, and is known as the Day of The Cross.
Although the Arrecife carnival is the most spectacular event of the year, the fiesta of Corpus Christi is possibly the most colourful. Corpus Christi is usually celebrated in Lanzarote during the first week of June each year, although on occasions, and in keeping with Spanish traditions, it has also been known to be celebrated during the last week of May. A central feature of the annual Corpus Christi Processions is that the streets are always decorated, and whilst on the neighbouring islands of Tenerife and Las Palmas this decoration is made up of thousands of fresh flowers, Lanzarote however adopt a quite different approach. In the days leading up to Corpus Christi, hundreds of tons of salt are transported into the larger towns from the salt beds around the island. This is then mixed with coloured dyes to create magnificent displays for the morning of the parade. Sadly these displays are very short lived, as the local councils always remove all traces of the salt within hours of the parade finishing.
Visitors to Lanzarote towards the end of June are often surprised to find that the Fiesta of San Juan bears a remarkable similarity to Guy Fawkes night, which is widely celebrated almost 5 months later back home in the UK. However in Lanzarote it is on the night between the 23rd - 24th June each year that effigies of a figure known as ‘El Facundo’ are ceremoniously burnt on bonfires throughout the island. As part of the celebrations young men demonstrate their bravery, or stupidity, by either jumping over the flames or attempting to walk barefoot across the embers of the fire. Another less popular tradition relating to the Fiesta San Juan is that of the ‘first bathe’, for prior to this day it was always considered bad luck for the locals to bathe in the sea.
The big event of the year in Playa Blanca, however is always the celebration of “Nuestra Señora del Carmen”, which takes place around July 16th each year. The fiesta is in honour of "Our Lady of the Sea" and features a colourful maritime procession, during which offerings are made to the Virgin.
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