The Fiesta de las Cruces (“Festival of the Crosses”) or Cruz de Mayo (“May Cross”) is a holiday celebrated 3 May in many parts of Spain and Hispanic America.

                  

Origins

Religiously, the festival is rooted in the search by the Byzantine Empress Saint Helena for the cross on which Jesus died, but the popular traditions connected to the festival certainly originate from pagan traditions brought to Spain by the Roman Empire.

The legend is that Emperor Constantine I, in the sixth year of his reign, confronted the barbarians on the banks of the Danube, in a battle where victory was believed to be impossible because of the great size of the enemy army. One night, Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, and by it the words “In hoc signo vincis” (With this sign, you shall be victorious). The emperor had a cross made and put it at the front of his army, which won an easy victory over the enemy multitude. On returning to the city and learning the significance of the cross, Constantine was baptized as a Christian and gave orders to construct Christian churches. He sent his mother, Saint Helena, to Jerusalem in search of the True Cross, the cross on which Jesus died. Once there, Helena summoned the wisest priests to aid in her attempt to find the cross. On Calvary Hill, traditionally considered the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, she found three bloody logs hidden. In order to discover which was the True Cross, she placed the logs one by one over sick people, and even dead people, who were cured or resuscitated at the touch of the True Cross. The veneration of the True Cross, and the use of pieces of the True Cross as relics, begins at this time. Santa Helena died praying for all believers in Christ to celebrate the commemoration of the day the Cross was found.

                                  

Places in Spain where the holiday is celebrated:

  • Aguilar de la Frontera (Province of Córdoba). There is a procession of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios from the Iglesia de la Veracruz (“Church of the True Cross”) in the Remedios neighborhood.
  • Aguilar del Río Alhama (La Rioja).
  • Águilas (Region of Murcia) in the pedanía (sub-municipal district) of Calabardina.
  • Alboraya (Province of Valencia). Organized by the Junta Local de Hermandades de Semana Santa de Alboraya (Local Alboraya Grouping of Brotherhoods of the Holy Week).
  • Alcalá la Real (Province of Jaén).
  • Alfaz del Pi (Province of Alicante).
  • Alhama de Murcia (Murcia).
  • Alhaurín el Grande (Province of Málaga).
  • Aljucer, a pedanía of the city of Murcia.
  • Alicante, in the Santa Cruz neighborhood.
  • Almería, throughout the historic center of the city.
  • Almonaster la Real (province of Huelva).
  • Almuñécar (Province of Granada).
  • Armilla (Province of Granada). The city government organizes a competition of decorated crosses on 3 May.
  • Andosilla (Province of Navarre).
  • Aranda de Duero (Province of Burgos). A cross is brought down from the church-museum of San Juan to the Plaza Mayor (main square), with hundreds of people dancing behind.
  • Baza (Granada).
  • Berrocal (Huelva).
  • Bonares (Huelva).
  • Breña Alta (Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife).
  • Breña Baja (Santa Cruz de Tenerife).
  • Burriana (Province of Castellón).
  • Cabeza la Vaca (Province of Badajoz). At different places around Cabeza la Vaca, crosses are adorned in a variety of motifs. On the night of 2 May, crosses are paraded through town, each accompanied by a musical group. On 3 May a procession goes through the streets of the city, with one primary cross representing the True Cross, but also many other crosses adorned by children with flowers.
  • Cádiz. Crosses with flowers are taken in procession throughout the city. Also, folk festivals (verbenas) are held in honor of the cross, and many courtyards are decorated in floral motifs.
  • Cadrete (Province of Zaragoza).
  • Caminreal (Province of Teruel).
  • Cieza (Murcia).
  • Province of Ciudad Real. The festival is celebrated throughout the province. In particular, the celebrations at Campo de Calatrava, Piedrabuena and Villanueva de los Infantes in the comarca Campo de Montiel have been declared to be of Regional Touristic Interest.
  • Coín (Málaga)
  • Córdoba. The Fiesta de las Cruces is combined with a festival can competition for decorated courtyards in the Real Feria de Mayo, with 25 crosses and 50 patios (courtyards).
  • Dosbarrios (Province of Toledo).
  • Écija (Province of Seville). Organized by the Hermandad del Resucitado, with traditional children carrying the crosses. Celebrated on a Sunday (3 May or the first Sunday thereafter).
  • El Madroño (Seville).
  • El Viso del Alcor (Seville).
  • Feria (Badajoz). Crosses are elaborately decorated in flowers, and altars are set up in rooms throughout the city. In 2008 there were more than 70 crosses. Declared as of National Touristic Interest.
  • Granada. One of the most beautiful of the festivals, and one of the cities most prominent for its celebrations of the holiday. Prizes are awarded in several categories: courtyards, streets and plazas, windows, and schools. The crosses are adorned with red and white carnations and often surrounded by artisanal handicrafts.
  • Granja de Rocamora (Alicante)
  • Guadalcázar (Córdoba), in the Plaza de España.
  • Hellín (Province of Albacete)
  • Huelva, especially for the Cruz de Mayo of San Pedro.
  • Jaén.
  • Jávea (Alicante).
  • La Palma del Condado (Huelva).
  • Lebrija (Seville).
  • Linares (Jaén).
  • Lucena del Puerto (Huelva).
  • Málaga.
  • Martos (Jaén).
  • Mengíbar (Jaén).
  • Molinillo (Province of Salamanca)
  • Montalbán de Córdoba (Córdoba)
  • Montilla (Córdoba), in the Barrio de La Cruz.
  • Motril (Granada). One of the most prominent of the festivals, rivaling that of Córdoba in fervor and enthusiasm. The festivities are considered of National Touristic Interest and it is considered the city’s Feria Chica, that is, its second most important festival.
  • Muchamiel (Alicante).
  • Pinos del Valle (Granada). Celebrated 1, 2, and 3 May, and dedicated to Santo Cristo del Zapato.
  • Puente Genil (Córdoba).
  • Paterna (Valencia), where it is celebrated 1 May.
  • El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz)
  • Torrelaguna (Madrid)
  • Rociana del Condado (Huelva), with crosses on Calle La Fuente, Calle Las Huertas, Calle Orozco, Calle Nueva, Calle Cabreros, Calle Sevilla, Calle Candao, Calle Almonte, and Calle Arriba.
  • Sagunto (Valencia), where it is celebrated 1 May.
  • Sama de Grado (Asturias). The origin of this celebration is uncertain, but it may go back as much as 500 years. One of its peculiarities is that instead of a procession centered on a cross, there is a procession of the Virgin of Sorrows dressed in sky blue to celebrate Christ’s victory over death. The statue of the Virgin is displayed, successively in three aspects: as the mother of Jesus, as the Dolorosa accompanying Jesus to Calvary, and because May is her month.
  • Santa Cruz de la Palma (Santa Cruz de Tenerife). The festival here also celebrates the foundation of the city, 3 May 1493.
  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The festival here also celebrates the foundation of the city, 3 May 1494.
  • Los Realejos (Santa Cruz de Tenerife), in the Barrio de la Cruz Santa.
  • Seville.
  • Úbeda (Jaén).
  • Valencia.
  • Valencia de Alcántara (Province of Cáceres).
  • Villa de Mazo (Santa Cruz de Tenerife).
  • Villabrágima (Province of Valladolid).
  • Villalgordo del Marquesado (Province of Cuenca).

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