As usual, I’ve been very busy because of a work’s deadline.
Well, this is actually one of my last posts. Before saying goodbye I have a little time to introduce you to more in-depth facts of Spanish culture….and some traditions typical of Elche.
I had almost forgotten to tell you about one of the most popular celebrations that people of Elche look forward to most eagerly, The “Nit de l’Albā”. The night of August 13th hundreds of fireworks light up the sky of the city making a mix of colour and sound. The festivity origins date back to the Middle Ages when families offered a rocket to the Virgin for each of their children. Today the tradition has changed into a coordinated firework performance where hundreds of fireworks are fired from different points of the city. As well as the coordinated display, the people of Elche and many companies also join in with their own fireworks.
The storm of rockets and fireworks begins at 23:00 pm and continues non-stop till a few minutes before midnight, when suddenly all the fireworks stop and the city centre lights are turned off. The people of Elche keep silent while they listen to the most significant fragment of the Mystery Play. For a few seconds, the darkness that covers the city is lit up by an enormous white starburst, the “Palmera de la Virgen”, which is released from the basilica of Saint Mary.
Once that moment has passed, the city lights are restored and on the Basilica’s tower an image of the Virgin in fireworks bursts into life accompanied by the famous habanera “Aromas ilicitanos” (our oldest traditions are rooted in religion).
The traditional final act to the celebration is to eat a slice of watermelon. After that, a lot of people take part in the traditional “guerra de carretillas” (war of carts) where people chase each other pushing “carts”, which are like firecrackers that can fly due to air movement around them. So, if you are running or walking the cart will follow you.
This event takes place in specially designated areas in the city centre that eventually seem to be scenes from hell. That’s why it’s an event recommended for only fire lovers. Moreover, there is a strict police control to let people access to the restricted areas because they must be well prepared, sober, and carry no illegal cart. For example, you cannot go in wearing summer clothes.
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