Photo collage: Adeje Ayuntamiento.
As every year, the first fiesta in Adeje’s year gives an opportunity to see some real Canarian tradition in the heart of the tourist area. The fiesta is of one of the town’s patrons, San Sebastian, and takes place in La Caleta on Sunday and Monday, 19 and 20 January, with horsemen riding into the sea, and pastoral farmers dragging their goats and sheep into the water for the animals to be blessed. The event’s draw makes it almost more a spectacular tourist event than a religious one, but despite the tens of thousands of people who turn up to watch it, at its core is the honouring of San Sebastian, the saint who can ward off plagues, and so keep animals, and humans, healthy throughout the coming year.
The celebrations begin on Sunday 19 with a 6pm Mass in San Sebastián church followed by a procession carrying the saint’s icon, and a folk music concert in the plaza. On the actual feast day of the 20th, which is also a public holiday throughout Adeje municipio, events begin at noon with a Mass and then a procession of pilgrims follows the image of the saint down to La Enramada beach where massive crowds are always waiting to see the traditional bathing of the horses, and quite often a few donkeys and maybe a camel or two, and always a number of family pets.
This is a fiesta steeped in local traditions which was first celebrated here in the 18th century, though the current statue of San Sebastián which is carried ceremoniously to the sea was brought to the parish in 1916 by the then parish priest, Eulogio Gutiérrez Estévez. Over the years country people and local Adeje farmers and beyond continued with their devotions to the saint in a very particular and special way. Many have attributed miracles to the statue of San Sebastián, including cures and favours granted.
Since tens of thousands take part in the fiesta every year, the council provides extra security measures from the Policia Local, the Civil Protection Unit, the Sea Rescue service, ambulances and health professionals to guarantee safety for everyone attending. The council asks the public to be aware that there might be access and parking restrictions in the area ahead of the procession, as well as a zone cordoned off for farm animals included in the festivities.
In particular, the public is reminded that given the numbers attending, plenty of time should be allowed for parking and walking. Attendees are also advised to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, to be prepared for long sun exposure, and to bring drinking water. Since this is a fiesta in which animals are very much involved, the council says that if you are bringing your own animal they must be on a lead and have their own food and water too.