Pilgrimage of Saint Sebastián
Held on the day of the feast of the patron saint of Alcaucín, Saint Sebastian, January 20th. St. Sebastian is the patron saint of soldiers, athletes, and those who desire a saintly death, and is considered as one of the holy martyrs.
A mid-day dance and lunch is held which is based on typical products of the region such as sausages and wine. After the meal the statue of the saint is taken in procession through the town centre.
Who was St Sebastian?
Sebastian was probably born at Narbonne, in France and though he was a Christian he became a Roman soldier around the year 283 AD, later becoming a captain under the emperor Diocletian. When it was discovered that Sebastian was a Christian, he was handed over to the Mauretanian archers, hence the usual paintings and effigies of him being pierced with arrows. He was left for dead. However, the widow of Saint Castulus found him still alive and nursed him back to health. Not long after this Sebastian confronted Diocletian about his cruelty to Christians; that however didn’t go down well with an emperor who was ferociously anti-Christian, and therefore Diocletian gave the order for Sebastian to be clubbed to death.
March / April:
Easter Holy Week
Semana Santa (Holy Week) is, to use religious parlance, a ‘moveable feast’, and therefore can take place at the end of March or beginning of April. Like everywhere else in Spain, it is celebrated with great fervour in Alcaucín, (read more about Semana Santa in Spain here). Also like other villages, Alcaucín follows the time-honoured traditions marking the days of Easter week. All except one.
On Maundy Thursday it features a peculiar procession known as the ‘Los Judios’ (‘The Jews’). It involves groups of villagers wearing Roman clothes and odd looking masks, and carrying rods made of almond or olive wood.
They are led through the streets led by a character they call the captain, who is even ‘uglier’ with a large wart on his face!
The ‘Jews’ then harass unsuspecting visitors, pretending to beat them, until one invites them to a drink in a bar.
As in all over the Axarquia, this celebration takes place on the nearest weekend to the 15th of May.
On the Saturday morning a Mass is said in the Nuestra Señora del Rosario church, followed by a procession of the Saint through the streets of the village.
A rather unusual custom in Alcaucín is the throwing of wheat at the Saint from the balconies! The reason for it they say, is that local people are either thanking San Isidro for a good harvest, or pleading with him that it be good next year. Indeed, some say that the wheat will definitely be thrown more forcefully when it is a poor harvest!
San Isidro is put on top of a flower filled cart drawn by oxen, ready for the pilgrimage to the El Alcázar recreation area (see here) about 5 kilometres from the village. Practically the whole village then accompanies the saint on his journey up through the spectacular countryside up to the park.
Several stops are made along the way, and when the pilgrims arrive at El Alcazar they usually spend the rest of the day with their families and friends eating, drinking and dancing. Some will then spend the night at El Alcázar in their tents.
On the Sunday morning the fun starts again with horse racing games and football. Then in the afternoon the pilgrims walk back down to the village until they reach the Rosario church, and the saint is put away for another year, to the sound of applause, shouts of “Viva San Isidro!”, and fireworks being let off.
This celebration is usually held over the first weekend in August in honour of Saint Sebastian, patron saint of the village. It gets livelier every year, with more and more events being held.
But in-between all the partying there is the customary parade of San Sebastián through the streets. The culmination is when the saint returns to the church, and what’s colloquially known as the ‘subasta de los palos’ (sticks) takes place. It is when the vertical poles (varales) that support the canopy over the saint are auctioned off, with the money going to the Church. In the end the ones who have offered the most get the opportunity of carrying San Sebastián inside the church.
The Flamenco Festival is a very important day for Alcaucín. It has grown in importance over the years and now attracts important artists.
The ‘Fiesta of Water’ also takes place during these days. This is a celebration for locals and visitors that is becoming more and more popular, and has been taken up by many Axarquian villages.
During the fiesta then, bubble and foam machines are set up for people to play in, but what is quite different in Alcaucín is the accompanying orchestra and the added buckets… People can get covered in foam and also throw water at each other in the square, all to music!
Fiesta of the Chestnut
On the last night in October, Alcaucín celebrates the old Fiesta of the Chestnut – the Fiesta de La Castaña.
People come from all over the district and the province of Málaga to try this nut in the beautiful setting of the Sierra de Tejeda.
Hundreds of kilos of this delicious nut, announcing the arrival of winter, are shared out and eaten by local inhabitants and visitors, along with another specialty of the day: baked sweet potato.
There are also aniseed liqueur and cinnamon cakes on offer.
SATURDAY 3RD NOVEMBER:
12.00: The Parents association at Alcaucín’s local colegio – ‘AMPA El Alcazar’ – have organised a planting of chestnut trees in the Parque Natural near Alcaucín around midday.
5.30: Hundreds of kilos of sweet chestnuts start to be roasted in the plaza outside the Ayuntamiento.
7.30: Everyone is invited to tuck into the sweet chestnuts, as well as roast sweet potatoes, all finished off with shortbread (mantecados) and a cup of anís!
9.15: The dancing and music starts.
Alcaucín pages guide
Use the links below to explore what you can see and do in Alcaucin, what festivals take place through the year, and to read about the area’s fascinating history.