Throughout the year, there’s a long list of festivals and celebrations that take place around Tenerife (yes, we’re an island of party animals!). It can be easy to feel a little overwhelmed, so to stop you from feeling so lost among all the choices available, we’ve chosen 4 of the best, to give your sun, sea and sand holiday a touch of something more traditional. Best of all, you’ll also discover some of the island’s most deeply rooted traditions, as well as sampling local food and wine. It’s a pretty good plan, don’t you think?
Festival of San Andrés
What better way to mark the opening of the island’s wineries than with a local festival in the north of the island? And if we throw in some roasted chestnuts and salted fish as well, we’re left with one of Tenerife’s most entertaining celebrations.
On the eve of San Andrés (St. Andrew) in the town of Icod de los Vinos, you’ll see a lot of people sliding down the steep village streets on a wooden tray (think of it as Tenerife’s answer to sledging). If you don’t want to miss your chance to witness this unique custom, head up the street called Calle del Plano, where you’ll also enjoy the wonderful smell of chestnuts roasting. The wooden boards or trays are coated with grease to give them greater speed on the descent, and the tradition is so deeply rooted in the town that children are even allowed out of school early to take part in the fun.
In Puerto de la Cruz, the amusing tradition is to “run with pots and pans” (correr los cacharros), which involves pulling along a metallic rope with tine, jars and other containers attached to it. The aim? To make as much noise as possible. The largest number of people congregate in Plaza del Charco in the centre of the town, where there are also educational and craft workshops for children.
According to legend, the origin of this festival is making enough noise to scare witches away. We don’t know if that’s true or not, but what we can guarantee is that it’s the noisiest Festival on the island!
Where: Icod de los Vinos, Puerto de la Cruz
When? November 29th
San Sebastian celebrations
Adeje is well known for its love of a good party and there’s no better example than when the whole municipality comes together: old, young and even the animals too, to celebrate the town’s patron saint. The day of celebrations begins with mass in La Caleta’s church, where the St Ursula parish choir plays a very important role. After the mass, the famous procession begins, headed by a team of horseback riders. The route takes them from the church to the beach of La Enramada, then up to the shrine before finally returning to church after the traditional blessing of the animals.
One of the most original (and photo-worthy) characteristics of this particular festival is watching how skilful riders take their horses into the ocean – it’s quite the performance, and attracts hundreds if not thousands of spectators, both tourists and residents, every year. It’s a festival that beautifully combines both a strong devotion to St. Sebastian and a deep love of animals.
Children fully enjoy the gentle pilgrimage, joined on the walk by oxen, cows, goats, sheep, camels and Sheepdogs, which ends in the Plaza de San Sebastian. This very typical festival also offers all the essential elements needed for a proper Canarian party: folk music and typical dances, handicrafts, delicious food and, of course, plenty of local wine!
When? January 20th
Virgen del Carmen festival
July is a very special month in Puerto de la Cruz, as it’s when they hold the celebrations in honour of their patron saint, Virgen del Carmen. There are various religious activities that take place throughout the entire month, as well as street parties, workshops and artistic exhibitions, but the most important part of the festival is held on the Tuesday before July 16th, its official name being Embarcación de la Virgen del Carmen y de San Telmo when the Virgin, accompanied by San Telmo, is carried onto a boat by fishermen in preparation for her maritime procession.
A special mass takes place at 17:30 in honour of the Virgin del Carmen, after which she is carried from the Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia church through the streets to the fishing harbour, where the climax of the celebrations take place. During the procession, the fishermen hold the Virgen steady as they carry her past thousands of devotees and spectators, who often throw flowers and shout our praises typically “¡Guapa!” “¡Bonita!” “¡Viva la Virgen!”. Before taking her on board the boat, there are often songs sung in her honour, and there is a really joyous party atmosphere as people eagerly await the Virgin taking pride of place on one of the boats to set sail with the hundreds of other boats gathered to take part.
Where: Puerto de la Cruz
Virgen de Candelaria celebrations
If we had to choose just one island festival not to miss, it would, undoubtedly, be that of Candelaria. As the patron saint for the whole of the Canaries, you can imagine the lengths they go to ensure that the celebrations are out of this world. The traditions associated with this small fishing town have also been declared of National Touristic Interest. The celebrations have strong religious links, bringing together faithful followers from all around the island. If you happen to see a large number of people walking on the night before, don’t be alarmed – several people take part in a nightly pilgrimage on the eve of the celebrations and spend the entire night walking to meet the Virgen.
For locals of the town the celebrations hold an enormous sentimental value, partly due to the events being a throwback to the ancient island aborigines. Aside from the traditional processions, flower-throwing and music, there is also a fascinating re-enactment that takes place in the Plaza de la Basílica, of when the Virgin Mary first ‘appeared’ to the native Guanches. During the night of the 14th there’s a magnificent firework display that lights up the entire sky over Candelaria and on the 15th there’s a hugely popular mass service in the church followed by a procession around the Plaza de la Patrona de Canarias.
When: August 14th & 15th.
Photos: soldelsurtenerife.com, diariodeavisos.com, minube.com