Los Gigantes Carnival 2013 (From 21st - 25th February 2013)
Carnival theme has not been agreed yet
A Carnival fund raising event, a water festival, is being planned for August 25th 2012. Watch this space for more details
For previous Carnivals check out the Photo Gallery
Los Gigantes Carnival DatesCarnival Dates are not normally confirmed until late November or December of the preceding year, but a good indication can always be made by determining when Ash Wednesday falls - the Carnival normally starts towards the end of the week after, the week after the famous Santa Cruz Carnival is held. Check back here for confirmation when it is received from the town hall and for links to the programme of events and photo album nearer Carnival Time each year.
Los Gigantes CarnivalOur own carnival in Los Gigantes was first held in 1981 and is usually celebrated in the week after Ash Wednesday. Added to the fancy dress parades, queen of Carnival in her stunning costume, open air dances and "murgas" (literally nuisances!) - groups who perform satirical skits and delight in sending up local and national figures of authority, we have the parade of the "burial of the sardine". A replica of a huge sardine is paraded shoulder high by black clad "widows" (actually strapping chaps in drag!) down from the top of Los Gigantes through the streets, stopping off in the Plaza Bouganvilla for a bit of refreshment and to give the "widows" a rest from their wailing, on to the car park next to the police station where the Sardine is incinerated before the start of a fantastic firework display, followed by dancing till the early hours in the Plaza. People often ask about the origins of the tradition of the Burial of the Sardine, but no one really knows. Above some "Lovelies" from the 1st Los Gigantes Carnival held in 1981.
As described above, it has its roots in the death cults of ancient Rome and represents the "death" of carnival, but the sacrifice of the Sardine may also be a supplication to the "gods" in order that the fish stocks will remain plentiful for the next year- not unlike the "harvest festival" traditions in other parts of Europe. The cross dressing of the "widows" has been associated with the period of the Spanish civil war when male children were dressed up as girls in order to avoid military service, or evenfurther back to the "role" switching of the Roman Saturnalian revels, but in any case great fun is had by all who take part! Above The first "Comisión de Fiestas" organisers of the 1st Los Gigantes Carnival in 1981.
The History of CarnivalThe origins of carnival go right back to the pagan festivals in honour of the Gods Isis and Apis in Egypt. But processions including dancing and satirical plays, which were held in honour of the God Dionysus, were also known in ancient Greece.
More recently, historically speaking, were the revels held in ancient Rome in honour of the God Bacchus, all classes of citizens took part equally in these events, unlike the Saturnalian revels where roles were reversed for the duration of the festival: the men waited on the women, the householders on their slaves and in the army the soldiers elected a comical "king" who dressed up and presided over the festivities.
But it was the Spanish conquistadors of the Islands who arrived in the middle of the 14th century who were the ones who brought traditions related to the celebrations Carnival to Tenerife. According to testimony of writers and travellers of the time the well off families of the island celebrated dances and fiestas to which they invited distinguished travellers in the 18th century this was really the forerunner of the more modern celebrations.
Above - Male members (honestly!) of the Los Gigantes Dot Com team take carnival VERY seriously!
Many of the modern day elements of Carnival, such as the masks and fancy dress can be traced back to the Roman times. Fancy dress or disguise was usually associated with the ancient death cults and by taking part in the revels in honour of Bacchus or Saturn one could appease the spirits of the dead. A person dressed in white with a masked face represented the spirits of the dead and the modern "burial of the Carnival" can be traced back to this tradition.
Once the Catholic faith was established the traditions of the revels did not disappear, they were firmly rooted in the mind of the populace and so the Catholic Church simply "hijacked" them and the revels became "Carnivals" taking place after the Christian period of denial - Lent. The word Carnival is derived from the Latin word "Carne" referring to the meat which had been given up during lent, and "Vale" farewell.
The costumes of the carnival queens are sponsored by local businesses and weigh a ton! (image on the left).
There are traditions of Carnival all over Europe, In Germany carnivals were held during the Middle Ages and renaiscence periods, but the tradition decayed during the reformation only to resurge again in the 19th century.
Italy is famous for the carnivals held at Venice, Rome, Florence, Turin and Verona with sumptuous historical costumes.
In France the celebrations start on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and come to a climax with the "death of Carnival"
In South America the tradition goes on in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, The Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil is considered the best in the world.
Even in more stoic Britain many towns hold processions with carnival floats and fancy dress parades, and of course in more recent years the Brixton Carnival, held over a number of days has become internationally famous.
There have been several times during history when the church or the state - with little success, has banned Carnivals! During the time of General Franco - after the fall of the Second Republic and the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Carnival was vetoed until the Seventies.
But as early as 1945, the Tenerifans began to celebrate Carnival in a clandestine way in their houses, although the civilian authorities and the clergy continued prohibiting this celebration.
Los Gigantes Carnival Queen 2005 (image on the left)
In 1965 the Winter Celebrations in Santa Cruz, as Carnival was called, were declared of tourist interest, which is why two years later, in 1967, the Santa Cruz Carnival became a Celebration of National Tourist Interest and it was declared that the Wednesday of Carnival was the Day of the Tourist.
The name Winter Celebrations stayed until 1976, when without the censorships that characterized the Franco dictatorship, they finally adopted the name of Carnival. But it was the 18 of January of 1980 when the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife reached a wider audience, on being declared a Celebration of Tourist Interest by the Spanish Secretariat of State for Tourism.
Today the Santa Cruz Carnival is considered one of the largest and most colourful second only to Rio de Janeiro.