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Monday, December 04, 2017

The great fiesta begins

...here in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera with a special fiesta of our patron saint 'Nuestra SeƱora de Los Reyes' in earnest this weekend and will continue until the 7th of January 2018 ! 'Los Reyes' (Epiphany) is also the celebration of Christmas in the Canaries and X-mas presents are given on that day, Jan. 6th. 
This year It is the 'bajada' which is celebrated only every 5 years and means that the image and the statue of the saint is going to be taken from the church in El Guro to be processed through every hamlet and part of the parish and staying temporarily in many different churches and chapels. Some associated events like a torch run have already taken place in preparation for the month-long event.

The processions are noisy affairs with loud firecrackers being shot into the air along the route. A traditional dance is being performed by many worshippers during the processions, accompanied by 'chacaras y tambores', the former being a locally made very large type of castanets, of which there is a 'male' and a 'female', the 'female' having a slightly higher pitch. The 'tambores' are homemade goatskin drums with a muted snare sound.The percussion beats a steady, restrained rhythm that could put you almost into a trance.To all this the participants chant a repetitive song that has a distinctly North African feel and probably originates in pre-Christian times. So the processions go from place to place, stopping here and there for prayers, followed by shouts of 'VIVA...'
Ahead of the processions, and even ahead of the statue of the saint, the 'ramo' is being carried which is an artfully bound bouquet of fruit and vegetables of considerable weight, and even the fabrication of this offering is celebrated with music, food and drink by the volunteers and onlookers. 
Culture aside, the fiesta is a perfect occasion for just having a good time. The secular parts of the proceedings usually begin after mass and mostly start with Canarian folk music followed on stage by salsa and merengue bands  who play for the dancers and revellers until the early hours of the morning through professional (and loud) sound equipment, often even until the sun has risen. Stalls serve food and drink throughout the proceedings and young and old are having a party.
The main programme for the 'bajada' 2017/18 can be found here: VII Bajada

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