Cruces de Mayo
Religious Festival in Cádiz
The Fiesta de las Cruces or Festival of the Crosses or Cruz de Mayo or May Cross is a holiday celebrated on the 3rd of May in many parts of Spain. It commemorates the crucifix on which Jesus was crucified and is believed to have its roots in the 4th century, when Constantine, son of Saint Helen, was helped in battle by a large cross.
The actual crosses which are around three metres high are made by the people of the neighborhood and the local town council runs a competition called the Concurso de los Cruces de Mayo to find the best cross.
Origin of the May Crosses
It is thought that the festival was brought to Spain by Romans and was originally a pagan festival. It has also been related to St Constantine’s mother, Saint Helen.
Legend has it that Emperor Constantine I, was loosing a battle with barbarians on the banks of the Danube. One night, Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, and by it the words “In hoc signo vincis” which meant “With this sign, you shall be victorious”. The emperor had a cross made and put it at the front of his army, and won the battle. 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.
His mother, Saint Helena, went to Jerusalem in search of the True Cross, on which Jesus died. On Calvary Hill, the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, she found three crosses. To discover the True Cross, she placed the logs over the sick and the dead to identify the cross that would cure or resuscitated them. St Helen then became a champion for the cross, urging people to continue worshiping it even after her death.
The actual date in the liturgical calendar that the Holy Cross Day is observed is the 14th Sept, yet the Crosses of May are celebrated on 3rd May in Spain.
In the true spirit of Spanish fiestas a temporary bar is built in the same square as the cross. This is where the locals congregate each evening for a good few drinks and tapas which inevitably leads to spontaneous flamenco style dancing into the early hours. The temporary bars generate a good income during these few days which is used by local brotherhoods or cofradías and community groups to finance various local festivals including Semana Santa or Holy Week and the Feria de Cordoba or Cordoba Fair.
Cruces de Mayo In different Parts of Andalusia
In Andalusia you can find crosses in all of the provinces although it is in Cordoba and Granada where the most impressive displays are on show. In the true spirit of Spanish fiestas a temporary bar is built in the same square as the cross. This is where the locals congregate each evening for a good few drinks and tapas which inevitably leads to spontaneous flamenco style dancing into the early hours.
In Cordoba the Crosses of May celebration is combined with the Cordoba Patios competition. The festival consists of the construction of large crosses made of beautiful flowers in many of the city’s main squaresand usually 25 crosses take part. Some of the best neighborhoods to head for are San Basilio, Santa Marina and San Augustin.
It seems that the first celebrations in Granada of the Day of the Cross as they are known today date back to the 17th century. In 1625 an alabaster cross was made in the San Lázaro neighborhood and all the residents of the area celebrated it by singing and dancing with her. Later, the tradition was continued in the most typical neighborhoods, such as the Albayzín and the Realejo , and the children began to build small altars decorated with Manila shawls, ceramics, and copper objects.aw
In Cádiz the crosses are celebrated with evening verbenas and often patios are decorated in flowers also in nearby El Puerto de Santa María across the water.
In Almeria the crosses are located in places around the city center. In some larger towns there can be over 40 different ones to see. They are easy to locate as there are always people around them. In Seville the festival is still celebrated and in nearby Ecija where the children carry crosses along in processions.
In Estepona the festival is less traditional – some of the crosses have a more contemporary feel and are more experimental in the additional objects placed around the cross.
The Cruz de Mayo of San Pedro in Huelva is notable but there are others in Huelva province such as Rociana del Condado or in Bonares. You can also head to Jaén or Ubeda where the festivities are also popular.