My Christmas wish for you is that love, hope and happiness fill your hearts this holiday season, and may all your dreams and wishes have wings.
During the festive season, the Christmas Lights in Málaga are always a great place to visit, but this year they have really surpassed themselves.
They are nothing short of spectacular!
Each evening, Calle Marqués de Larios, the main pedestrianised shopping street is crowded with people enjoying a party atmosphere with balloons and street performers to entertain them. What I particularly love here in the city, as in every village and town across Spain, you will see all the family generations out taking their evening stroll together.
Whilst they are still open, the shops, as well as the bars and restaurants are brimming over with people either doing their Christmas shopping or just soaking up the festive atmosphere.
The stars of this particular light show are shining brightly on Calle Marqués de Larios (famous for being paved with marble), and this year’s display has a Gothic feel, with a cathedral-arched frame dominating the street.
Most surrounding streets have a more modest display of lights too, so have a wander around and see them, but don’t forget to look up at the beautiful buildings, too.
You’ll see bright red poinsettias everywhere – planted on the roundabouts, hanging from lamp posts and displayed in huge cones around Calle Larios.
There’s a huge choice of bars and restaurants to tempt you – many with their gas-flame heaters burning outside to keep you warm. If you have to drive back home again later, you might prefer to try the best chocolate and churros in Málaga, at Cafe Aranda in Calle Santos. The light, crispy churros and thick, creamy hot chocolate to dip them in are absolutely scrumptious!
Afterwards, wander down Calle Larios to the main road through the centre, Alameda Principal, to see the beautifully lit trees and the flower stalls or turn left and walk along the edge of the Paseo del Parque to enjoy the many Christmas stalls lining the route.
Marvel at the huge Christmas tree in Plaza Constitución, with the Gothic arches peeping at you from Calle Marqués de Larios, inviting you to come closer.
It’s easy to be fooled by the blue skies and warm sunshine, but yes, it’s only two weeks until Christmas Day.
You can really get in the mood for Christmas by visiting the outdoor skating rink in front of El Corte Ingles, or go to see one of the many the Bélens (crib and Nativity scenes) around the city – of which the best (in my opinion) is in the Town Hall.
Malaga’s Christmas lights shine from 6.30pm – 2am daily, until 6th January 2015
What’s YOUR favourite thing to do or visit at Christmas?
Held every year during August to commemorate the reclaiming of the city from the Moors by the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon) on 18th August 1487, the Málaga feria is one of the largest fairs in Spain with millions of people joining the fun throughout the week.
Many daytime activities take place on the main shopping street - Calle Marques de Larios, Picasso’s birth-place – Plaza de la Merced and throughout the historic centre of the city from noon until around 8pm each day. There are open-air bars to tempt passers-by with sherry, delicious sweet Málaga wine and tapas while the sound of music fills the air.
Many people dress in traditional costume and spontaneous demonstrations of flamenco dancing often break out in the street.
Yesterday, it was a joy to wander around the city, soaking up the party atmosphere before heading to the Bodega Bar El Pimpi for a spot of lunch. El Pimpi seems to get bigger and bigger every time I go, with it’s warren of rooms and outdoor terraces, which were all packed with feria-goers. The inside walls of the bar are decorated with photographs of famous visitors and historic posters of ferias past. You can also see the enormous barrels signed by some celebrity patrons including former UK prime minister, Tony Blair and, one of Málaga’s famous sons, film-actor Antonio Banderas.
Tradition then dictates a short siesta before heading to the outskirts of the city (next to the Palacio de Congresos building, near the airport) for La Feria de la Noche (the night fair), which starts very slowly around ten in the evening and continues all night, until the break of dawn.
Here you will find hundreds of marquees (known as casetas) scattered throughout the fairground where you can enjoy more drinks and food, whilst dancing to the sound of both modern and flamenco music.
And, if like me, you LOVE fairground rides, then you can be flung here, there and everywhere on some wild, mechanical rides or take a gentle journey on the huge ferris wheel, for great views across the feria.
There are shuttle buses throughout the night from city centre to the fairground.
Would you like to join in the party next year?
Over the past couple of days, various festivities in honour of the Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors, have been in full swing.
Around 16th July each year, many of the coastal towns and fishing villages of Spain celebrate by parading the statue of Virgin del Carmen through the streets, accompanied by the steady rhythm of a brass band, the resounding thump of a drumbeat and the cries from the crowd of “guappa” or “viva” as the statue passes by.
At dusk, after the procession arrives at the water’s edge, the Virgin del Carmen is taken out to sea on a flower-decked boat, accompanied by a flotilla of fishing boats (jábegas),to bless their fishing grounds.
The Virgen del Carmen is of great importance to the inhabitants of Axarquían towns and villages such as Caleta de Vélez, Nerja, Rincón de la Victoría and Torre del Mar because many larger towns and holiday resorts along the coast were once small fishing villages where the sea provided their daily existence.
But we need to look back to the scriptures of the Old Testament, centuries before the birth of Christ, for the origin of the Virgen del Carmen.
The Bible tells us that the prophet Elijah went up Mount Carmelo near Haife, in Israel to pray for rain to relieve a great drought that had parched the lands. Whilst Elijah was on Mount Carmelo, he saw white clouds forming, which would bring the much needed rain. Elijah interpreted the clouds as a sign of the coming of a Saviour who would be born of a Virgin.
In gratitude for the rain, the community dedicated itself to praying for the mother of the Saviour to come, and the Order of the Carmelites was formed.
On 16th July 1251, the Virgen del Carmen is said to have appeared to Englishman, Simon Stock, who was responsible for building Carmelite monasteries throughout Europe in the 13th century. The story goes that when she appeared to him, the Virgen was holding a scapular and she promised that Carmelites who show their devotion should use this as a sign of privilege that they would be “granted the grace of final perseverance and be delivered from eternal Purgatory”.
A scapular was originally an apron, forming part of the dress of a religious order, but for the lay-faithful, scapulars usually bear images, or verses from scripture. Devotional scapulars typically consist of two rectangular pieces of cloth, wool or other fabric that are connected by bands. One rectangle hangs over the chest of the wearer, while the other rests on the back, with the bands running over the shoulders.
The Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo (the Virgin of Carmen or Virgen del Carmen) is also known as Stella Maris (Latin for Star of the Sea) which is the name given to the Pole Star (Polaris) used by mariners for centuries as celestial navigation.
EDITED TO ADD: These photos were all taken during the evening of 16th July 2014 in Torre del Mar. I had to wade out into the sea, above my knees, to take them because there were so many people on the beach, it was the only way of getting the chance of some good shots without thousands of heads or bodies in the way. My sundress was soaked and I had to try to hold it up with one hand and take photos with my other. Happy days :)
Which is your favourite Spanish festival?
Taken on the beach during Monday evening’s La Noche de San Juan festivities.