Murcia

Festivals

Fiestas en honor de Santa Eulalia
(Festivals in honour of Saint Eulalia)
(December 8, 9 and 10)

These festivals begin with a pilgrimage in which the image of 'Santa Eulalia' is taken from the retreat in the mountain to that of 'San Roque'. Later, the image is taken to the church of 'Santiago' (Saint James), when a procession also takes place.
This pilgrimage dates back to the seventeenth century when people from Totana and other places, attracted by news of the many miracles performed by the Saint, began to go along to the mountain retreat. As the place itself was gloomy and it was a cold time of year, the people sheltered inside the retreat, where stewards brought them food and drink, and they spent the night singing and dancing.

Now, as in the past, on the night before, people from Totana and the surrounding area, who hold a special affection for both the mountain and the Saint, arrange to meet at the foot of the mountain to spend the night in good company and to enjoy 'migas' (a typical hearty dish of fried breadcrumbs) and good wine whilst they wait for daybreak. The image is taken out of the retreat by bearers, who carry it on their shoulders, in the early hours of the morning. Barefoot devotees and merry pilgrims show their devotion to the Saint by accompanying her on her journey with euphoric religious chants, which can only be heard at times like this.
The journey of the Saint through 'Los Huertos' is charming and emotive, especially when the followers draw near to the image and cheer her in passing, whilst those who carry the Saint give out sweets to the people who have spent a long night outdoors. The pilgrimage continues in this fashion until it arrives at a place, which has long since been known as 'El Rulo', where the image is received by the townspeople and the civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries alike, who then accompany their patron to the end of her pilgrimage, which is found at the retreat of 'San Roque'.

Romería de la Santa
(Pilgrimage of the Saint)
(January 7)

This is the date on which the people of Totana hold their traditional pilgrimage when the image of 'Santa Eulalia', accompanied by a great procession, is returned to her retreat in the mountains from the parish church of 'Santiago' (Saint James).
The festivities begin early in the morning at nine o'clock when both pilgrims and local dignitaries, in the same state of excitement, commence the pilgrimage towards the retreat. Once they arrive at 'El Rulo', the authorities bid goodbye to the Saint, whilst the pilgrims continue their ascent of the mountain, all the way singing and dancing to the sound of guitars and castanets and, more importantly, drinking 'mantellina' to keep out the cold. Once at the summit, they prepare themselves for the descent with a typical dish of rice and rabbit, which is cooked and eaten al fresco.

Carnavales
(Carnival)
(February-March)

I have always had a feeling that I was being hard done by when it came to Shrove Tuesday. I had been aware for many years of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Mardis Gras in New Orleans which celebrated the last day before lent in a slightly more exuberant way than eating a pancake that my mother had often stuck to the ceiling in a pretty poor display of tossing or had peeled off the floor, made a token effort to scrape off the dog hairs now attached to it, and tell me with no authority whatsoever “that won’t kill you, get it down you”.

When I first moved to Totana I was blissfully unaware that in this small town of some 30,000 people they too host an amazing celebration which goes largely unseen by outsiders eyes. Groups of people called Peñas come together early in the New Year and start to rehearse with absolute dedication for their performances. The rehearsals are frequent and intensive and the hard work can be seen in the level of their performances. The eagle eyed among you will notice that I have used the plural form of performance. There’s a reason for that, in Totana the Carnival happens twice. Once on the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday and then again the following Saturday when they invite the best of the best Peñas from surrounding towns to come and join the party.

The Peñas differ in size and in the level of seriousness with some being a mere handful of characters on a small float to dance troupes of nearly 200. There is a cross section of ages and genders, the men are heavily involved in every area of the Carnival, and there is also a specific childrens Carnival on the Sunday. The larger Peñas will often tell a story through their dance and competition to be the best Peña is fierce. Costumes, hair designs and make-up are elaborate. Parents have no objections to spending up to €1500 on an outfit that will only be worn for one years Carnival. Each Peña has it’s own floats and vehicles and the music which accompanies the troupes is loud and infectious.

So, let’s get on to the first day of Carnival and try to imagine that the whole town either seems to be taking part in the show or watching it. Viewing points are at a premium, it’s quite normal to see people arriving on the route with their sofa. Did you read that ? They bring their bloody sofa with them !! Well, they usually have the last laugh, if you stand in one spot the whole procession will take about 4 hours to go past you. This type of commitment to watching an event generally requires a drink or two and the bars are busy and incredibly good natured. This town knows how to party and, more importantly, it knows how to behave. There is a token local police car at the head of the procession and then after that there is no visible presence whatsoever. It seems unbelievable but it’s true, the whole event needs absolutely no policing and everywhere you look for the whole day there are people with a drink in their hand.

If you have never been to see Carnival then you’re in for a real treat. For many, myself included, it’s one of the best weekends of the year. Now I’m not going to tell you where I watch it from but let’s just say the plaza is a fantastic spot to take everything in. Bring chairs if you want to and above all else bring a happy heart and watch a small town celebrate like there’s no tomorrow………. anyone for pancakes?

Carnival 2020 will be on 22nd and 29th February.

San Marcos
(Saint Mark)
(April 25)

This festival takes place on April 25, with the day traditionally being spent in the countryside and people enjoy the typical dish of 'garabazos'.

Semana Santa
(Easter)
(March-April)

Spring starts with Easter. This long-standing and traditional religious festival is vibrant and colourful and the people of Totana expectantly await its coming and the opportunities it affords to don hoods and tunics and to take part in the processions or simply to watch their passing from squares and balconies. The bands of drums and horn players lend an air of solemnity to the occasion. Another special feature of Easter Week are the 'Armaos', a group formed in the eighteenth century by 'Don Alonso Ramón Cánovas'. This group was initially made up of eighteen men, all from important families of Totana, and they dressed according to the Roman fashion, and today this same group escorts the thrones of 'Nuestro Padre Jesús' (Jesus Our Father) and 'El Santo Sepulcro' (The Holy Tomb) in the procession which takes place on the night of Good Friday. Totana takes on an air of special beauty during these spring days and it makes a splendid setting for the numerous processions that take place during the week. A great many of the inhabitants of Totana take part in the Easter celebrations, there are sixteen brotherhoods, some of which date back to the eighteenth century, with more than 3000 members in all, of which 390 are female. These women belong to 'Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza' (Our Lady of Hope) and they take part in the Silent Procession on the Wednesday before Easter arrayed in the Español mantilla and scapular and they carry a rosary and a short staff.
Also dating back many years are the processions which take place on the Thursday before Easter and Good Friday. The brotherhoods carry adorned thrones and images such as that of 'Nuestra Señora de los Dolores' (Our Lady of Sorrow) which has a beautiful robe embroidered in gold and is accompanied by a marching band made up of violins, wind and percussion instruments. The standards, some of which are extremely old, are carried before the thrones and they lend a splash of colour to the proceedings. The festivities in Totana come to an end on Easter Sunday, with an emotive procession which depicts the Resurrection.
These festivals have been declared of 'Interés Turístico Regional' (of special interest to visitors to the region).

Fiestas en honor al Patron Santiago Apóstol
(Festivals in honour of Patron Saint James the Apostle)
(July 23, 24 and 25)

Traditionally, cultural events of great prestige are held in Totana during these few days such as the famous musical 'Certamen Internacional de Habaneras' (International Contest of Habaneras) in which choirs from different parts of the region participate. There are also religious celebrations, of which the most important is undoubtedly the procession of the patron saint.

Fiestas de San Roque
(December 15-16)

Religious acts take place at this time of year which culminate in the procession of the Saint. There are also cultural and traditional celebrations such as the popular open-air parties which create a highly festive atmosphere.

Christmas

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