THE small mountain village of Cáñar, in the Alpujarra of Granada, has an unusual festive tradition that takes place on the morning of 28 December every year.

Called ‘Música de Las Mozuelas‘ (the nearest translation would be “youth” or “stripling”), it’s an event where the men parade through the streets, serenading the ladies, who listen from their doors and balconies.

The historical event dates to the late 19th century, when village men carrying musical instruments would serenade young, single women with beautiful songs. These songs have been handed down through the generations and are accompanied by accordion, guitar, drums, maracas and even forks banging a bottle of anís.

The serenading takes place in two rounds: one overnight for just the men and another in the morning, for everyone who wants to join the procession. This includes women – some playing instruments – and older teens painting their names across their faces and carrying bottles for ‘chupitos’ (shots).

However, the event is not for the weak of constitution, involving a lot of walking and singing. It starts at around 3am, after the men gather in a group, and continues through the daytime, ending at about 5pm with food in the village plaza.

Cáñar is frequently called a “hidden paradise” because it has no through road, making it the ideal location for the overnight serenading experience, undisturbed by traffic or too many visitors. Of those who do visit for the occasion, many visiting from Barcelona – a top destination for ex-villagers.

However, being serenaded isn’t free of charge, as ‘Las Mozuelas’ isn’t a town hall-funded event. Instead, parents pay 50e each for their daughter – or even their elderly mother – to be serenaded by the passing crowd. The revellers stop and sing outside each house for about 10 minutes, before moving to the next location en route. The money collected in a piggy bank later pays for for a party for the whole town.

Some couples have married directly because of Las Mozuelas, including ‘Cáñaretti‘ couple, Montse and Moro, who now have two grown-up children.

However, the role of ‘Las Mozuelas’ has changed over the years, with today’s courtship rituals (or lack of them) being very different – and arguably less romantic – than those in the 19th century.

The Olive Press spoke to Marta, a farmer’s wife who is married to her teenage sweetheart from Cáñar. She says: “The event used to have a different role. The men serenaded a girl if they were genuinely interested in her, to show their romantic intentions. It created more of a link between men and women, who might then go on a date. These days, the young people have a different philosophy, and it is more of a fiesta with drinks.”

The musical procession is notoriously alcohol-fuelled, with a good-spirited ‘botellon’ feel. The participants brandish bottles of Baileys in various flavours, the local ‘vino costa’, and crates of beer. After all, lubrication is necessary for the vocal cords.

Oscar, a British teenager who lives in Cáñar, but did not join the revelry this year, said: “Spain can be quite machista and I think it’s good that the men serenade the women.”

However, Andrew Barker, a married poet from nearby Granada, quipped: “I think it should be the other way round in our all-equal society!”

Regardless of today’s mixed views on gender equality, the ladies being serenaded around town clearly appreciate the heartwarming experience.

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