Tenerife’s Fiestas de la Cruz – the May fertility rites

Photo: Adeje Ayuntamiento.

Wherever you look over the next couple of weeks, and especially Friday next week, you’ll see floral crosses. They are symbols of the Fiesta de la Cruz de Mayo (May Cross Fiesta) which is celebrated on 3 May throughout Spain, but especially in Tenerife because it is the date on which, in 1494, Santa Cruz was founded.

The best known celebration here is in Los Realejos, where a firework display that is now world-famous is part of the town’s Cruces & Fuegos fiesta (see HERE). There are also major celebrations in any town with Cruz in the name, indeed there is a municipal public holiday in Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz, as well as Los Realejos (see HERE).

Although the actual origins of the fiesta are unclear, the cross is evidently a Christian symbol. The real roots, however, are far older, and go back to pre-Christian, pagan times when May meant fertility and growth, and signified Spring passing into Summer. To mark this time, trees were traditionally decorated with greenery, flowers and coloured ribbons to represent the blooming of new life and the abundance of the land.

And as the main symbolic representation of fertility in many village greens and squares, the tree was replaced by a pole and was decorated instead. We think of the May Pole and the morris dancers as particularly British, but in Spain, the Fiesta de la Cruz de Mayo was originally called the Fiesta del Palo de Mayo … not the “cross of May” but the Pole of May! We are not the only ones who have a May Pole because ancient symbolism runs deep and very far afield! And you’ll see plenty of Tenerife’s May Poles over the next week in the modern day version of the May Cross Fiesta!

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