Just like buses …
You wait for ages then two come at once. This week we have, or will have had, not one but two bank holidays in the space of a week!
On Tuesday, October 9 it was a regional holiday “Día de la Comunidad Valenciana” or The Day of the Valencian Community. It marks the anniversary of the capture of the city of Valencia by King James I from the Moors, back in 1238, which at the time was an independent kingdom. It did not become part of Spain until 1707! It was not even officially recognised and celebrated until 1976, when the Valencian Regional Government decreed it a Bank Holiday – the year after Franco died. Many towns, including Benidorm marked the occasion. Members of the council, police representatives and dignitaries all attended a ceremony up at the Mirador in the Old Town.
The two fiesta queens along with their maids of honours… and there are lots of them, turned out in their formal dresses and sashes, hair perfectly coiffured. Most of these little girls will have been at the hair salon from first thing in the morning getting ready. Although it’s a great honour it is also extremely costly for the parents, with a single dress costing several hundred euros and they need more than one! I’m sure that there is a secret sigh of relief from new parents, well fathers for sure, when they discover it’s a boy. Any fiesta or occasion and they have to be there, obviously along with their parents in tow.
There are especially plenty of flower ceremonies, walking up to the Mirador clutching bouquets which are then placed around the church doors – I bet they have to pay for those too… but at least the local florists are happy and kept in business.
To mark the beginning of the event, 3 flags were raised – Spanish, Valencian and European to the Spanish national anthem being played by the Musical Union of Benidorm, with all the police representatives saluting. There were then the formalities – speeches by various invited guests and the Mayor, advocating the use of the local language – Valenciano. I’m all for upholding tradition, but my personal opinion on this one is that I am not particularly in favour. Fine at home but for many parents, not only British but all foreigners that send children to schools in this region, it’s a nightmare. I even know Spanish mums that aren’t in favour of classes being taught in Valenciano and last year there were many protests about the new ruling. Great if you plan on staying to live and work within the Valencian community, but travel to Madrid and it’s pointless – no one will understand you. Teach it as a second language in schools as you would English or Italian but not core subjects.
The second Bank Holiday is tomorrow, Friday, October 12 and this is a National Holiday across the entire country – “Día de la Hispanidad”, the National Day of Spain. It commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first arrival in the Americas and also widely celebrated throughout the Americas, where it is known as Columbus Day in the United States. Again, this was also a late joiner, not being officially recognised as a national holiday until 1981. In Madrid there will be a huge military parade, presided over King Felipe and Queen Letizia, which will be televised by all the national television stations.
The vast majority of people just see it as an extra day off work, to relax, eat and drink, which is what bank holidays are all about. In the UK they are usually moved to a Monday, for example May Day, also known as Workers’ Day or Labour Day actually falls on May 1st, but in the UK will take place on the first Monday in May, which next year will fall on May 6th. But considering that we are well into October, we have been really fortunate with the weather, although it is on the change now. Evenings are getting chillier and darker – it’s pitch dark by 8pm now and still dark at 7am! Another couple of weeks and clocks will go back marking the official end of summertime. But having said that, there are still plenty sunbathing on the beaches and even, brace yourselves, swimming! My pool thermometer is now reading a chilly 21 degrees – my limit is 28 but I can hear the Norwegian neighbours two doors down still jumping in. To them it’s warm, they’re hearty Nordics who are used to the cold not like us wimps – well us Southerners anyway, the Northern lots are a little braver I think.