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Friday, 21 September 2012

Preparation for the Moors & Christians in Altea

The much anticipated Moors & Christians parade in Altea takes place this weekend.
It is the highlight of the month long celebration, which actually started on 8th September and doesn´t officially finish until the 30th. There have been various low key parades, processions and religious services throughout the month but this weekend the grand parades take place.
People travel in from all around to witness this spectacular and I would certainly recommend you do so too if you have the opportunity.

I spoke with members of some of the penyas in the town to get an idea of what goes on during this period - a penya is like a club or group of friends. If you drive around the town you will see garages and empty shop units transformed and decorated into the penya base. It all centres around drinking and partying and a makeshift bar is the focal point of any penya.

In Altea there are approximately 20 different penya´s... and they all have names. The sizes vary but on average there will be about 50 members in each.... once a family join a penya then they usually stay for life, handing over to the younger generations to continue.  Each year one of the penyas is chosen to represent the Moor King and another the Christian King... it is an honour and privilege. It works on a cycle so that every penya gets the opportunity. However, this privilege comes at a cost!
One of the many penyas in Altea

To belong to a penya you have to pay a membership fee which varies depending on which one you belong to - the one I was speaking with costs 400 euros per year, but families get group discounts. The money from this particular penya goes towards the cost of hiring the costumes for the annual parade, but each one works differently. Others are cheaper but then you have to pay separately to hire your costumes... whichever way you look at it, its a fairly expensive business!

The weekend before the main parade is the traditional fiesta meal, called "Cena de Cargos". This is hosted by the Moor King, Christian King and Alferez which happened last Saturday and is for all the participating penyas. This is entirely paid for by the two Kings penyas. In order to finance the feeding of what can be up to 1000 people the two penyas spend the entire year fundraising! It is not a full blown meal, more tapas type food but to feed and water that many it certainly doesn´t come cheap... and when I say water I do not mean literally!

Over the last year one regular fundraising event was a bingo session, held every Saturday at a local bar. Members of the penya took it in turns to organise. Locals came to play and support the evening, paying a small fee which went towards the fund. Many penyas also sell lottery tickets for the big El Gordo Christmas draw which takes place on 22nd December. The ticket price is 20 euros but they generally add on an extra 2-3 euros and that also goes into the fund. Although you could go to the lottery shop and get it for 20 euros most locals will purchase from a penya to help support their fundraising - so now you know why some tickets are sold at a higher price than the face value.

Imaginative  festive pizza from an Altea restaurant
The cost of hiring a costume varies depending on how elaborate it is, but 100 euros is probably at the cheaper end of the scale I am told. The two main penyas that represent the Moor and Christian Kings will have the most eye catching and spectacular outfits. There is a hire shop in Altea, but often the penyas will go either to Alicante or Alcoy, where there is a much bigger choice. During the procession, each penya will be preceded by a band then the penya members will follow.... you can see now why most Spanish children learn to play an instrument from a young age.

This Saturday, 22nd  is the Moors parade and on Monday 24th it is the Christians parade - both start at 8pm. The best place to watch them from is the main road where the Town Hall is on - not the main N332. If you are going just follow the crowd or listen to where the noise is coming from. If you get there early enough you can get a seat - but be warned, they are not free. I believe they cost about 5 euros... someone will turn up collecting money if you park yourself on one, but you will have it for the entire evening and have a front row position. In my opinion the Moors parade has more eye catching and glittery costumes if you can only make one. Parking will be a problem - either take the number 10 bus, the tram to "Garganes"- which is the stop directly behind the Town Hall or be prepared to walk, as you probably won´t find anywhere close by. Next Monday and Tuesday are Bank Holidays in Altea so I doubt that there will be the normal Tuesday market.

Relevant articles
Moors and Christians parade in Altea
Moors and Christians in Benidorm
Altea - a bus ride away

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