Corpus Christi is the Catholic holiday in honour of the presence of the body of Christ in the holy water. It is celebrated throughout Spain and is held in either May or June depending on when Easter occurs. To calculate the next Corpus Christi date, look for the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday (the eighth Sunday after Easter) and you’ll know when the fiesta is set to begin in towns and villages throughout Andalucia.
A solemn and magnificent procession bears the consecrated host through the streets. Although Corpus Christi is celebrated everywhere in Andalucia, it is most famous in Granada, where this religious celebration fused with the annual “féria” so many years ago.
The history of Corpus Christi in Granada is particularly interesting as the Catholic kings used it as a tool to Christianise a population that had been under Muslim rule for some eight centuries. According to historical accounts, they even instructed the town hall to invest large sums of money into the fiesta and urged the town to celebrate until they “appeared crazy”. Being the obedient citizens they were, the “Granadinos”, as they are known in Spanish, willingly complied.
In the beginning the people of Granada just celebrated the festival on the actual day of Corpus Cristi. However, in the 17th century someone had the bright idea of starting on the eve of the big day. From there it was only a matter of time before the religious event was merged with the annual fair in one of the biggest celebrations of the year.
In the past all the towns and villages around Granada were forced to each supply a specific amount of greenery to carpet the streets of the provincial capital. And historically, theatre carts travelled around the city, following the Corpus Cristi processions and putting on plays. That seems to have gotten out of hand at one point and in 1765 King Carlos III officially put a stop to the custom.
While the Granada Corpus Christi celebration is the most spectacular, this religious holiday is celebrated in most towns in Andalucia. Of particular note are Algatocín, Árchez, Benadalid, Benalmádena, Cadiz, Casabermeja, Cómpeta, Cútar, Igualeja, Málaga, Marchena, Seville, Sedella,Sierra de Yeguas, Torreperogil,Yunquera and Zahara de la Sierra, .
Today it is still typical to carpet the streets of towns and villages with greenery for the solemn Corpus Christi processions. This adds a special ambiance to the processions. The Corpus Christi parades also tend to attract all the local authorities, and in some cases, military personnel as well.