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May Crosses / Las Cruces de Mayo
The 3rd of May is a special day in Andalusia and Spain in general, bringing the popular tradition of The Day of the Cross. Probably more often associated with the cities of Cordoba or Granada, it’s a tradition that is found throughout the towns and villages of the region mixing the typical Spanish blend of religion and celebration.
The day itself goes by a variety of names, Las Cruces de Mayo (May Crosses), Dia de la Cruz (Day of the Cross) and Fiesta de las Cruces (Festival of Crosses) are just a few names that this tradition is known by which is understandable given its popularity in both Spain and Latin America. The day consists of the displaying of two to three metre high decorated crosses. Groups of all sorts come together including religious brotherhoods and social groups as well as individuals or neighbourhood associations that decorate a cross as best they can, often with any donations or proceeds going to charity or the funding of future religious processions in the town or city. You’ll often find a buzz of activity around the larger displays, frequently with a temporary bar and food available. As day moves into night these gatherings can sometimes become quite lively with typical Spanish singing and dancing inevitably coming to the surface.
The crosses themselves are generally decorated with flowers and often adopt themes, a nautical theme being quite typical in Nerja given the towns fishing industry heritage. As well as flowers, the displays will be made up of all manner of objects, plants, silks and carpets, basically anything goes, as long as it adds to the display in some kind of symbolic way.
In Nerja the Balcon de Europa always plays host to large display organized by the town hall and there is typically another in Calle Pintada. Despite being a religious tradition competition has seeped in and each year prizes are awarded for best Cross. As part of this entrants must register in advance allowing the town hall to produce a map of crosses on display throughout the town. If you’d like to see all the crosses on display, pop by the tourist office in the days leading up to ‘Day of the Cross’ and ask for more information.