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The Holly Cross



Deck the transverse section in silk and jewels. Decorate the bare niche with spring flowers. Add various life-size rag-dolls to the left and right. Let the vigil commence, let the celebration commence announcing the month of May.

Every spring, on May 3rd, the traditional “Celebration of the Cross” (Fiesta de la Cruz) is held on La Palma. On this occasion, people decorate the crosses scattered alongside the old footpaths throughout the various districts on the east side of the island, especially in the municipalities of Breña Alta, Breña Baja, Santa Cruz de La Palma, and Villa de Mazo. For months, local inhabitants perform painstaking work decorating the crosses with flowers, coloured paper, seeds, cloth, jewels, and so on. The aim is to make the cross within its niche, the one in your own neighbourhood, the most spectacular of all. The main ingredients required are imagination, combined effort, and devotion. All along the criss-crossing narrow lanes in Breña Alta, dozens of wooden crosses are adorned with luxurious fabrics and covered in jewels. The crosses are placed on ephemeral altars, laden with religious symbols. It is common to find not only biblical representations, but also dwarfs from the Descent of the Virgin celebration, ships, mills and millstones, together with scenes alluding to current affairs on the island. In 1985, for example, coinciding with the opening of the astrophysical complex of Roque de los Muchachos, a cross could be seen surrounded by scale models of the domes of the various telescopes. Beside the crosses, on an improvised bench, the devotees of each one keep guard all night from May 2nd to May 3rd. In Santa Cruz de La Palma, the “Celebration of the Cross” also commemorates the founding of the city on May 3rd 1493, and its name day. The culmination of the conquest of the island by the Commander in Chief of the Canaries, Alonso Fernández de Lugo is remembered with the procession of a magnificent, silver cross dating from 1865, kept in the El Salvador church, and with the city’s flag. In the evening, devotees change the fabrics on the crosses resting against the walls of the Renaissance town, replacing them with new ones, and occasionally adding attractive pleats and hems. After, they deck them out with jewels and flowers. Beside the cross, and sometimes even on balconies and rooftops, the mayos appear. They are grotesque rag dolls representing different scenes, some related to traditional life, others to current affairs.



Breña Baja


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