A cultural year in the life of the Sierra
A great many celebrations are held during the four seasons of the year in the mountain region including religious and pagan celebrations, ancestral dances, activities recalling past times or others linked with Mother Nature.
SPRING (March, April and May)
Spring starts off with one of the most traditional celebrations in Andalusia: Easter Week. The historical brotherhoods of Aracena, Aroche, Cortegana or Encinasola have paraded with their religious icons for several centuries and still do so.
The most unique acts take place in Aroche, with the Sermon of the Seven Words and Pilate’s Sermon, two sacramental ‘autos de fe’ from the medieval age. On Resurrection Sunday other celebrations take place, like ‘The Judas’, the Tour, the Egg and Bread Bun Day… different versions of Easter Sunday which are the finale of this celebration week.
March also welcomes the International Hunting Fair in Rosal de la Frontera (Ficar), a meeting-point for all hunting lovers, while in April Puerto Moral celebrates its Cattle Fair, which is the oldest of this type in the region.
At the beginning of May, Hinojales enjoys its festivities in honour of the Virgin of Tórtola. The dance or ‘lance’ of Celtic origin is represented by a group of seven men, dressed in typical costumes who closely escort their patron saint during the parade around the village streets.
Spring also welcomes the most important festivity in Almonaster la Real. In the May Crosses celebration the villagers congregate around two crosses: the Llano Cross and the Fountain Cross. Both have a similar ritual in which the beauty of nature comes together with the popular ‘rivalry’ folk songs. In these performances of oral heritage, one group praises the values of its own Cross and underestimates those of the other Cross.
SUMMER (June, July and August)
In Corpus Christi in June, the village of Cumbres Mayores celebrates the tradition of dance together with the art of bull-fighting. This event joins two groups of dancers, all children, who dance during the morning procession. When this is over, the villagers get ready for the traditional amateur bull fights in La Portá Street, where the bull fighting enthusiasts show their courage.
The Festivities del Voto (or the Bull) in Santa Ana la Real originate from an old promise to their patron saint and combine amateur bull fighting with the delicious food from the mountain region.
Every year in August, dozens of painters invade the streets and squares in Cortelazor la Real to participate in the Open Air Painting Contest which turns this village into a gigantic pain-ting studio.
If you want to go back in time and live like the feudal gentlemen, vassals, ladies and merchants from the Middle Ages, do not hesitate to visit Cortegana in August. The village streets, overlooked by the castle, go back six or seven centuries during this Medieval Festival which attracts more and more visitors every year.
AUTUMN (September, October and November)
Given the importance of cattle and horse enthusiasts in the area, every year in September there is a nationally renowned Cattle Fair in Aroche (Fegar). Morphological contests, dressage, exhibitions, a trade fair and a number of fun activities make up the programme.
Autumn is also the season of the year when the mountain region takes pride in its historical legacy through the Islamic Culture Festivity in Almonester la Real (October) which takes the village back to the era of Andalusí splendour with its Arab market and calls for prayer in the mosque.
The yearly Sephardim Event in Santa Olalla de Cala also brings back an era of flourishing coexistence between the three historical cultures.
WINTER (December, January and February)
On the evening of 7th December, Aracena lives its popular windmill festivity where these objects, made of leaves from chestnut trees, are enjoyed by children and adults alike along with bonfires which light up the village squares.
This purifying act is also celebrated in Linares de la Sierra, Los Marines or in the neighbourhood of La Umbría (Aracena) where they burn their ‘trinkets’.
As far as the Christmas activities are concerned, we cannot forget the tradition of the live Nativity Play in Galaroza or the Parades of the Tree Wise Men, especially the procession in Higuera de la Sierra. The villagers from Galaroza use the watchtower in the Santa Brigida chapel and the surrounding area to stage the Judea Nativity Scene f rom year 1. Higuera de la Sierra also takes pride in its Three Wise Men Parade which attracts more than 30,000 people every year who come to see the biblical scenes performed by the villa-gers with great detail and realism.
Later on in February, Carnival time comes to villages like Galaroza, Cortegana, Cala, Aracena, Santa Olalla del Cala, Cañaveral, Hinojales, Cortelazor or Cumbres de San Bartolomé and the finest costumes are dug out of the cupboards to fill the streets with colour and festive fun.
Other festivities which deserve a separate mention are the pilgrimages, celebrations which are related to spring and summer bringing together both the natural surroundings and religious devotion. Encinasola, with its Virgen de Flores; Almonaster la Real with Santa Eulalia; Aroche with San Mamés; Cortegana with San Antonio and Alájar with the Reina de los Ángeles are the main places although all the villages keep up the tradition of pilgrimage celebrations and are worth visiting.