OCTOBER 9 is a double celebration in Valencia.
Principally it is Valencia Day and commemorates the date when Jaime I del Conquistador retook Valencia City from the Moors in 1238.
But October 9 is also the Mocadora, the feast day of San Dionisio when men present girlfriends and wives with marzipan figures wrapped up in a mocador (handkerchief).
According to some sources, the city’s women presented Jaime and his troops with fruit wrapped up in handkerchiefs when they entered the city 782 years ago.
The fiesta continued through the centuries and, Valencia being Valencia, by the 15th century this included the firecrackers and rockets that still dominate official and unofficial celebrations.
Following the War of Succession at the beginning of the 18th century, the newly-installed Borbon king, Felipe V, stripped the Valencian region of rights and laws.
He also banned fireworks but, undeterred, bakers made marzipan shapes resembling the vetoed piuelets and tronaors to which they added miniature fruit and vegetables, celebrating Valencia’s bountiful agriculture.
The custom has endured and this week, bakers’ windows display trays of the marzipan figures that men still give to women on October 9 although they are now less likely to be handed over in a hankie.
Historians point out that none of this is enough to make San Dionisio, an early Christian martyr, a patron saint of lovers.
But although they argue that his feast day merely coincides with the day that Valencia was liberated by Jaime I, Valencian lovers continue to revere him all the same.