La Fiesta de la Candelaria is a holiday celebrated around the world on February 2. It also known as: One of the 12 Great Feasts, Candlemas, the Purification of the Virgin, the Festival of Lights or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Here in Alhama the “Jameños” have their own traditions which I am pretty sure are unique. From my observations, Candelaria in Alhama is less of a religious holiday and more of a good excuse to throw a party in the streets that involves eating food with your neighbors, building big bonfires and constructing “merceores” (actually the proper word in Spanish is mecedor, but here in Alhama they are “merceores” or huge swings). It was a new festival for Team Kezmoh and I like to understand the origins of these sorts of things so I did a little research on the significance of Candelaria. This is it in a nutshell: Candelaria occurs on February 2 which is 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth and to present the child to the temple. This was associated with the lighting of candles by the faithful. Different cultures have come up with various celebrations around the world. I have to say that the celebration in Alhama is very lovely and enjoyable.
February 2 this year fell on a Sunday but the festivities at school began on Friday. We were delighted that we were asked to join a group of parents who would be making tortitas (fried dough) and chocolate (hot chocolate) for the children. We set up tables behind the school and got to work as soon as the kids started class. We had 30 kilograms of bread dough from the panaderia. That is a lot of dough! We rolled out the dough into thin sheets and then cut it into little squares.
The other mothers and fathers set up 2 gas burners. One to make hot chocolate and another to fry the dough.
We must have made 1000 tortitas which were delicious little pockets of fried dough that can be dipped in sugar or miel de caña (a local favorite that tastes like molasses). Savannah told me that the aroma of the sizzling dough and the hot chocolate traveled to her classroom. The children paraded through our mini donut factory class by class starting with the 3 year olds. We demonstrated how we made the tortitas and the kids had fun playing with the left-over dough. As each group came through, the parents sang traditional songs that all the Jameños know by heart. One of the teachers took the time to write out some of the most popular songs so we were able to join in.
“Si quieres que te quiera
cómprame un roscón
y cuando me lo coma
me compras otro”
On Sunday the real Candelaria festival began. In the morning we stood on our balcony and watched our neighbors on Calle Enciso set up one of the biggest merceores in town. Sky excitedly ran up the hill because this swing was at her friend Ana’s grandmother’s house and her friends would all be there. Calle Enciso is a steep, narrow street. The swing was set up between balconies with 2 strong ropes with a cloth seat rigged around the 2 thick cords. I watched the men test it and was glad to see that it held their weight.
At lunchtime, next to the merceor, Ana’s grandmother and her neighbors gave away free vino del terreno (homemade wine, moonshine Mike says) and sold steaming bowls of garbanzos with potatoes and chicken. For dessert one could buy pastries and muffins made by the grandmothers of the neighborhood. All of the proceeds went to charity.
Sky, Savannah and their friends took turns on the swings. Their laughter and smiles made me warm on the cool day. I sent a video to my brother, Peter in the US. He commented that back home the children would need a parental consent form, a helmet and a safety belt to climb on board the homemade swings. So true, I’m glad that there are still places in the world that worry less and live more.
Savvy swinging. Sky pulling the rope. Our neighbors in Alhama de Granada singing.
Mike and Francisco had a midday bike ride and on their way back into town stopped at Maria José’s house for some vino del terreno.
After nightfall Ana’s grandmother and her friends served hot chocolate and buñuelos. We ordered buñuelos for 4 people which was more than enough for everyone in our group. The buñuelos came tied on strings called espartos which are made from thin reeds. We kept warm by the lumbre, dipped our steaming buñuelos (donuts actually) in hot chocolate and visited with friends and neighbors.
Late into the night the lumbres glowed on every street corner. It was a village-wide block party. We spent most of our time near our local merceor with Team Aguilar, our good friends.
After La Fiesta de la Candelaria we felt a little bit more Jameño and we went to bed feeling happy to be in Alhama.