ONE of the things that struck me when I first came to live in Spain was the love affair that the Spanish, have with fireworks – fuegos artificiales – and the way they employ then on every possible – or sometimes impossible – occasion.
I remember, as a guest at a Spanish wedding for the first time, being startled almost out of my skin when exploding strings of fire-crackers, sounding like gun-fire, greeted the happy couple as they emerged from the church.
It all seemed rather threatening, even menacing, to me as a relative newcomer, but seeing all the other guests, family and friends, cheering and applauding, I very quickly realised that this was just another way the Spanish have of showing jubilation.
As most of you will have noticed, a Saint’s Day, or indeed, any day with a religious or festive connotation, no matter how slight, will be greeted at dawn by rockets fired at regular intervals, frightening the birds, and causing dogs to protest.
It doesn’t even have to be dawn. I was chatting one evening in a bar in Torrevieja, with some friends from Orihuela, when rockets began to explode in the sky, and I enquired of them, since they are Spanish, what was being celebrated, “No idea,” they admitted. “Torrevieja is your town, not ours.”
It turned out to be the first anniversary of the new church in La Plaza de Oriente, an occasion that clearly merited a few rockets.
Probably the best fireworks display I have ever see was some years ago when a sort of Son et Lumiere took place in Alicante, consisting of music relayed from the Castillo de Santa Barbara to speakers on La Playa de Postiguet accompanied by fireworks computer-controlled to change colour, mood, and intensity with the music. It was amazing, and if it is ever repeated, I urge you to attend. You won’t be disappointed.
Then of course, again in Alicante, there are the Hogueras, the entire city centre, and even some of the outlying suburbs, displaying huge wood and papier maché figures lampooning politicians and even the church.
My wife and I were at that time living in an apartment in the tallest building in Alicante, overlooking Los Luceros, and we had a perfect bird’s-eye view of everything. We were warned by the building staff to keep our windows open during the ‘mascletá’, the firing of literally thousands of firecrackers suspended above and around Los Luceros.
We did as we had been advised, and very glad we were, too. The noise and smoke was more like a battle than a celebration, and included even a number of large air-bursts at about the height of our apartment. It was exciting, very Spanish, and wonderful!
The hogueras celebrations in Alicante are very noisy, but if you want to experience something even more battle-like, go to Elche in August for ‘la nit de alba’ when they fire off thousands of white rockets from the roofs of just about every town-centre building.
This ‘bombardment’ lasts for hours, with spent rockets and sticks falling like rain. My wife and I enjoyed it, and even collected bundles of sticks for our garden plants, but I warn you, it’s not for those of a nervous disposition.