Carnival Tenerife - Traditions on the Canary Islands
Carnival is celebrated in every town and village on the island, though the most spectacular are those in the capital of Santa Cruz and the resort town of Puerto de la Cruz.
The Tenerife Carnival is full of raw abandonment and gaiety. It rivals the carnival in Rio de Janeiro in the joy and festive spirit it personifies.
Tenerife Island is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Spain and attracts a large number of tourists all year round. However, only a few people know, that Carnival in Tenerife is something very special.
Right after the famous Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Tenerife is on the second place, when it comes to spectacular Carnival events.
Just like in Brazil, Salsa and Samba Rhythms accompany the colourful Carnival procession in Tenerife.
Tenerife’s carnival season gets under way in february, with events all over the island.
Carnival in Puerto de la Cruz
Some of the biggest and best of the celebrations are in the island’s northern resort of Puerto de la Cruz, which traditionally acts as an appetiser for the main event in the capital, Santa Cruz, generally regarded as ranking second only to Rio de Janeiro in world carnival terms.
It may all sound a bit sedate judging it purely on the list of events, but that would be to forget the Canarian appetite for having a good time and their stamina in making the celebrations last well into the wee small hours for the duration. "Carnaval" in the Canaries is a raucous and riotous fortnight of revelry to be survived by only the strongest of constitutions.
Main events in Puerto de la Cruz:
Puerto’s International Carnival starts with the choosing of the children’s carnival queen on Sunday and continued with the election of the Carnival Queen on Thursday in the Plaza de Europa.
Saturday: Parade through the town to officially announce the carnival; first of the Grand Balls held every night in Plaza del Charco and its surrounding streets.
Sunday (Plaza de Europa): children’s dance groups perform; Children’s fancy dress competition; More children’s dancing; Adult dance groups; Adult fancy dress competition; More adults dancing. Grand Ball in Plaza del Charco and surrounding streets.
Monday: Ritual Matar la Culebra, or killing of the snake, at various locations throughout the town centre; Exhibition of carnival groups, Plaza de Europa; Grand Ball, Plaza del Charco and surrounding streets.
Tuesday: Parade of veteran cars centred around Avenida Colon; More carnival group exhibitions at various locations around the town; Grand Ball in Plaza del Charco and surrounding streets.
Wednesday: Entierro de la Sardina, or funeral of the sardine, procession through the town culminating in a huge fireworks display and the cremating of the giant sardine on a funeral pyre. Grand Ball, Plaza del Charco and surrounding streets.
Thursday: "Exhibition of Fanfare", Plaza del Charco.
Friday: Enrolment and scrutineering of heels for the 13th running of the "Mascarita Ponte Tacon", or Men’s Marathon in High Heels in Plaza del Charco; Race starts (and finishes) in Plaza del Charco; Grand Ball, Plaza del Charco and surrounding streets.
Saturday: Grand Puerto de la Cruz International Carnival Parade; Grand Ball, Plaza del Charco and surrounding streets.
Sunday: Exhibition by senior citizens carnival groups, Plaza del Charco; Grand Ball, Plaza del Charco and surrounding streets.
Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Every year the capital of Tenerife gets dressed up to greet the carnival which is classified as touristically valuable and counts as one of the most spectacular carnivals in all over the world.
Thousands of joyfully celebrating dressed ups are dancing on the streets and enjoy themselves till the early morning hours.
Santa Cruz’s raucous carnival dates back over 200 years and has survived famine, epidemic and the Spanish Civil War to become one of the world’s best-known. In world terms, it is considered to be second only to the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. Worried island officials had calculated that banning or restricting the the night-time carnival activities could cost the local economy a massive 5,000,000 Euros and seriously damage the island’s tourism reputation.
The carnival was officially banned during the 36 years of dictator General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. He outlawed carnival but many places, including Tenerife, openly defied the ban, continuing to stage the carnival celebrations but under a different name.
The celebrations in the capital always begin with the choosing of the Carnival Queen, a lavish all-night event which is screened live on television and attracts huge audiences across the island.
The carnival continues with wild street parties, loud music, dancing and thousands of people in costume. So numerous are the crowds that it seems at times that the entire population of the island is out partying.
Main events in the Santa Cruz Carnival:
Wednesday: Gala Election Night of the 2007 Carnival Queen.
Friday: Evening parade through the streets of Santa Cruz formally announcing the start of the carnival celebrations. The parade is followed by a huge fireworks display.
Tuesday: The main event of the carnival, the Grand Parade, begins in the afternoon and continues for several hours. The parade is also televised. Another huge fireworks display follows at 9pm
Wednesday: Another big day in the carnival calendar, Funeral of the Sardine, when a giant papier-maché fish is paraded through the streets at the head of a mock funeral procession complete with a huge entourage of mourners in black and other celebrants in more garish costumes (men dressed as pantomime dames, for instance).
Saturday: Children’s Carnival Parade.
Sunday: Morning parade of vintage cars; 12 midnight: Grand Fireworkds Display to conclude the carnival events.
The Carnival Queen
The splendid gala to nominate the annual Carnival-Queen is among the most impressive moments fullo of rhythm, colours and fun without limit.
The origins of the Carnival in Tenerife date back to the 16th century and the Carnival Queen is one of the main attractions during this event.
Being a Carnival Queen is not an easy undertaking and requires a lot of effort and of course sufficient funds, since the dress for the queen is an expensive one.
Dressed up in a costume that weighs around 60 kg and which needs to be held by a special support frame, the Carnival Queen attracts the glances of all guests and visitors.
It takes many hours for the Carnival Queen to finish the make up and to get the dress properly into the right shape.
The most important Carnival processions of the island take place in Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz, however, even smaller towns and villages have their own carnival events and their own Carnival Queen.
In addition, every year a delegation of the Carnival Queen will take part in the famous "Rosenmontagszug", the well-known Carnival procession in Cologne, Germany, whilst a German delegation makes its own contribution to the Carnival procession in Tenerife.
Carnival all around the island
Each of the cities, towns and villages sets a theme for its carnival celebrations.
In La Orotava, the grand parade is on Tuesday. A parade of vintage cars begins the day’s actitivities at 10am from Plaza de la Constitución. The carnival parade at 4pm sets out from Cruz del Teide to Plaza de la Paz. The partying carries on long after the parade has finished.
Thursday sees a Drag Queen Festival at the morning in La Orotava, featuring some of the best drag acts from Gran Canaria and Tenerife.
Los Cristianos stages one of Tenerife's smaller carnival celebrations, though it’s still the biggest in the south of the island, events including a masked ball, children's carnival queen competition and a parade of horses.
Some of the smaller towns and villages try to organise their events so as not to clash with the two giant events. But for all of them, carnival follows a traditional pattern of groups of music, dance and sumptuous costumes.
Just as everywhere else, celebrants adorn themselves in the ridiculous, the daring and the unashamedly outrageous, converging on the streets and squares to the rhythms of congas, sambas, rumbas and the more traditional Spanish zarzuela - providing a good chance to take in some songs and dances indigenous to the island.
End of Tenerife Carnival
In Tenerife the Carnival officially ends, with the "Entierro de la Sardina". During this ceremony, a large sardine, made of papier-maché is burned and represents thus the end of the winter. Moreover, the sardine usually contains a number of fireworks that will explode when it is finally burned in the fire.
The carnival of Tenerife is a great spectacle, which you should’nt miss in any case, surely you will be impressed!