Monday, October 11, 2010

9 de Octubre and Feast of San Dionís

In Valencia, as in much of Spain, festivals and holidays decorate the calendar almost weekly. Saturday was a day in which two holidays were celebrated simultaneously: 9 de Octubre (Valencia National Day) and Feast of San Dionís (a day for lovers, similiar to St. Valentine's Day). Festivities began on Friday night with a parade and HUGE fireworks display. We, unfortunately, missed this part of the celebration since, in true Spanish tradition, it commenced at midnight! We did, however, walk past the enormous setup site for the fireworks the next day and were still able to smell sulfur in the air at 2:00 in the afternoon!

Throughout the day on Saturday, various celebrations were held around the city. In the Plaza de Virgen, traditional Spanish dancers performed on a temporary stage. The elaborate costumes of the dancers were beautiful! Given the number of festivals and fallas throughout the year that offer opportunities to display them, much time and money is spent creating these works of art. We were happy to discover that the Cathedral was also open to the public during the festival so we were able to see it's interior - breathtaking!

Behind the Cathedral, in Plaza la Reina, a parade celebrating the history of Valencia marched down the street. Again, participants were elaborately adorned, and their procession portrayed the history of Valencian rule throughout the ages. The men and women on parade seemed to take great pride in their roles and put much effort into playing their parts. It was definitely a sight to behold!

Caroline was quick to remind us that, on the American Valentine's Day, sweets are shared with those that you love. She felt strongly that we, too, should honor the similar Spanish custom of San Dionís. Located on a corner in the Plaza la Reina was a huge candy store, so we had the opportunity to do just that. Actually, the traditional Spanish custom is to wrap a handful of handmade marzipan in a handkerchief and give it to your lover on Feast of San Dionís, but absent of a hankie and a place to buy the marzipan, we improvised.

Saturday night, around midnight, as I lay reading in bed, I heard the faint sound of beautiful Spanish music. At first, I thought it was one last procession for the Festival and would soon be over. However, once I noticed that the music did not seem to be fading, I got up and opened the wooden shutters that close off our bedroom to the street sounds below. To my amazement, I found that we were being serenaded by a band of 14 Spanish singers and musicians (Ok, so it was the young Dutch girl staying in the apartment below us that was really being serenaded, but it's my story so I can write it any way I like)! Caroline was still awake reading - having taken siesta that day - and came running into our room to see what was going on. As soon as Bill lifted her to the window, the musicians turned and directed their serenade to her - amazing! I'm not sure that she fully appreciated the rarity of her experience, but it is my hope that she will see many more serenades in her future!

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