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Holy Week | Cordoba Patio Festival | Crosses Festival | The Fair (Feria)

Walls and windows covered with flowers during Cordoba's Patio Festival. The Crosses or Cruces: a cross in San Pedro neighborhood. Illuminated entrance of the Cordoba fair - la Feria - the most attended of Cordoba festivals.

The 24th of October is set aside in honor of Saint Rafael Archangel, Cordoba's protector. Schools and businesses are closed.

Holy Week (*)

The week leading up to Easter, and especially Holy Thursday and Holy Friday, is full of ritual, display and devotion. Throughout the week, costaleros from Thirty Catholic associations, or brotherhoods, bear images of the Passion of Christ and of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders through the narrow streets for hours, taking turns in teams of about 30. These massive, wooden pasos are carved, gilded platforms for the images and carry elaborately depicted Biblical scenes. They seem to float through the crowds, rocking gently with the trained step of rows of unseen costaleros, whose difficult maneuvers become acts of Faith. Thousands of candles and masked penitents leading the way and trailing behind, accompanied by music, add to the solemnity and symbolism. read more about Holy Week.

The Patio Festival (***)

Article: 47 Patios to Participate in 2008 Cordoba Patio Festival
Photos: 2006 Patio Festival Article, Map and Photo Albums | Photos 2005 Patio Festival Winners
Resource: Spanish-English Cordoba Patio Plant and Flower Glossary

The Patio Festival is a unique opportunity to step into private homes, whose owners-after caring for hundreds of plants and flowers all year long-open their patios to the public in early May. People from the city and abroad enjoy their hospitality and marvel at the variety of the decorations and plants, just when the geraniums, roses, carnations and other flowers are in full bloom.

For travelers in search of authentic experiences, this tradition is ideal. Cordoba's streets and plazas are a delight to explore, but the city's private houses--many hundreds of years old--shelter beautiful little corners which are waiting to be discovered.

Cordoba's patios capture the essence of Andalusia in a tiny space, isolated from the rush and hurry of modern life. The aroma of lemon blossoms, the exuberant vegetation, and the cool trickle of a fountain make them tiny oasis. The festival is the city's most emblematic event of the year.

In the words of Manuel Garrido Moreno, president of the Amigos de los Patios Association, "the Patio Festival is to Cordoba what the San Fermines is to Pamplona." Both government and the private sector have made efforts over the last 50 years to save these beautiful private spaces, which are an integral part of the city's architectural and social heritage. As a small incentive, the city hall offers several prizes to the best patios. At the beginning of the festival, patio maps listing all of the patios in the festival are available in local businesses and the Tourist Office.

The Crosses Festival

The Crosses (Las Cruces de Mayo) is a spring festival which has been revived in recent years. Neighborhoods and associations around the city set up crosses in public squares, covering and surrounding them with flowers. Some are quite elaborate. Music, dancing and drink accompany the festivities.

The Crosses Festival in Cordoba and other Andalusian cities has its roots in the celebration of the exuberance of life and its triumph over death following the Easter season--it is a massive, lively street party welcoming back the warm weather. The best crosses are worth seeing, and around a few of them there is still a traditional festive atmosphere, where some women wear colorful flamenco dresses, people drink chilled Montilla-Moriles wine and the most danced-to songs are "sevillanas". Many others are glorified bars for the young crowd, who cause sanitation problems in adjacent streets.

The Fair

Photos: Pictures from the 2005 Fair
Concerts: Event listings from the 2005 Fair

The Cordoba Fair (la Feria) finally arrives in late May, and people young and old flock to the dusty, noisy fairgrounds to see the inaugural fireworks(**) and start 9 days of merrymaking. If you are in town that week, you will notice that many businesses close at lunch and remain closed, the streets are quiet in the city centre and that many people look like they came straight from the fair to work in the morning, after a quick change of clothes and a shower. Thursday and Friday are local holidays that week and are the fair's busiest.

You won't see the cattle and agricultural goods which are the origin of the fair, apart from horses on mornings during the first five days, before the big crowds arrive. While there are noisy streets featuring carnival rides, games and fair food, the main attraction are the "casetas". These covered areas, with their own bars, kitchens, music and dance floors set up by social clubs and associations to provide a place for their members, their families and their friends to celebrate that week. Best of all, unlike the famous Seville Fair, most casetas in Cordoba are open to non-members (and there is no entry charge). Recently, decoration in some casetas has been losing its traditional flavor, so be sure to search out places with that special Andalusian flair (we can only hope that the City Hall does a better job of maintaining standards than in the past few years).

There is something for everyone, and it is fun to go from place to place in search of the best food, the best music and the best party. Like in the Crosses festival, modern dance music and pop culture is gradually gaining ground over traditional Andalusian music and dress, but it is still a good place to see an authentic Andalusian festival and have a good time.

There are some concerts and competitions during the fair--check our calendar of events listings for events that have been announced beforehand. Most of them take place in the Caseta Municipal. If you are looking for a meal, many casetas have good-quality food, although prices seemed to have jumped in 2006.

The best way to get to the fairgrounds is to walk or take the fair special bus service, which runs all night and returns to the city center. Don't forget to finish off your festivities with an early-morning round of churros and hot chocolate!

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