THE Cruces de Mayo (May crosses festival) is celebrated annually throughout Spain on 3 May. It is popular in Andalucia, with the most famous event – of floral, decorated patios – taking place in Cordoba. It is also celebrated in Granada, including in the thriving spa town of Lanjarón.
Every year, to mark the event, crosses are built in the street, and adorned with all manner of colourful accessories. Some of the more popular crosses are accompanied with mobile bars and barbecues, encouraging a street party vibe.
An annual tour of crosses
Tourists can use a map provided by the town hall to find all the crosses, which are mounted at 9am and dismantled during the evening. While some towns award a prize for the best cross, with a judging process, Lanjarón rewarded the participants with wine and ‘jamon serrano’ (cured ham).
Residents also celebrated with a ‘biodiversity walk’ to the Tajo de la Cruz ‘ermita’, just above the town. Here, they congregated in front of the small church, enjoying panoramic views towards the Rio de Lanjarón and the Costa del Sol.
A historic event
The history of the Cruces del Mayo can be traced to the 4th Century AD, and the reign of Emperor Constantine.
During a vicious battle, Constantine had a vision of a cross that helped him vanquish the enemy. His family then converted to Christianity and his mother, St Helena, travelled to Jerusalem to find Jesus’ cross. She located three contenders. To establish which was genuine, she tested them to see if they performed miracles. One cross fitted the bill, healing people and bringing them back to life. St Helena became a champion for the cross, urging people to worship Jesus.
This veneration of the cross motivates the ‘cruces’ fiesta, which can span the two weekends before and after 3 May (any excuse for a drawn-out fiesta…).
The tradition of decorating the crosses dates to the 18th century, and usually involves a town’s ‘hermandades’, or religious societies. The crosses tend to be around 3m high and adorned with flowers – usually red or white. The cross site can be enhanced with flowerpots, ceramic bowls, and other accessories such as picture frames, guitars, scarves, fruit, miniature wooden furniture, candelabras and even saddles.
Many of the item have a flamenco connection.
A second fiesta weekend
Some towns in Granada region, including Rubite in the Sierra de Contraviesa, have their crosses celebration on Saturday 6 May – so there’s a second chance if you missed out on 3rd.
- Spain’s patios of Cordoba will open their gates to the public as of Thursday 2 May
- DISPATCHES: The ‘loca fiesta’ of San Juan returns to the spa town of Lanjaron in Spain’s Granada