Maro might be small, but its festivals are getting bigger...
Traditionally, Maro’s festivals were far more intimate than those you might come across in larger towns and villages. While this is still largely the case, there has certainly been an effort in recent years to increase what’s on offer. Like all the pueblos along the Costa del Sol, Maro has adapted and encouraged a new industry to develop, that of tourism, undoubtedly a route to relative prosperity. Thus in 2009 Maro inaugurated a new festival, ‘Maroween’, which has more than just a passing nod to the culture of their Northern European visitors. Nevertheless, for a while at least, the village’s size ensures that you were able to witness all of the events, from the parades to the final fireworks.
During the festive year Maro holds many of the celebrations that are dear to the Axarquian heart. There is the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings parade, is usually held on the 6th of January in Maro. During the parade the kings throw sweets to children in the crowd around the streets of Maro. At the end of the parade is a charming ceremony in which the local village children are given special presents by the Kings which takes place next to the local church, Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas. Read more on the tradition, origins and history of the Three Kings in Andalucia.
In February, there is one of the most popular festivals, Carnival, celebrated with lots of fancy dress and with parades through the streets. Note that as it is based around the date for Shrove Tuesday, so dates change for it every year. Read more about the traditions and history of Carnival in Andalucia.
Around May 3rd, there’s the Crosses of May festival (photo right), when floral crosses are surrounded with shawls, mantillas, silks and carpets, and other household items. All this is enlivened by regional folk music and the local cuisine that is offered to visitors. See our description of this popular local event in Nerja.
On the night of June 23rd we have another staple fiesta in the Axarquian calendar, that of San Juan. Everyone heads down to Maro beach, makes a bonfire, and often camps there all night, eating and drinking in celebration of this important summer festival.
But there are festivals in Maro, some of which are new, and some that are fairly unique to Maro and have been celebrated for centuries. These are the ones we’ve described below.
If you’ve been to one of these festivals don’t forget you’re invited to leave a comment describing your experience, (note that a Facebook account is necessary).
Fiesta of San Antón
On the 16th to 17th of January, Maro holds a festival in honour of Antonio Abate, protector of domesticated animals and the village’s patron, a celebrated saint throughout much of the Costa del Sol. In Maro, the celebrations take place over two days.
This is one of the oldest religious feasts held in Maro, with records of it dating back to the 17th century. In the past, people used to light candles and bonfires as a tribute to St Antón, asking him to protect their animals from disease and death.
The bonfires are lit to symbolise the burning of everything negative about the previous year. At that time, in each door or front of the house a small bonfire was burnt, as gratitude to the saint for the benefits obtained in the harvests of the year and for the protection of the animals.
Until the first decades of the 20th century there was a custom of fattening a pig during the year, popularly known as ‘Guarrillo de San Antón’. The animal was put to auction on the eve of the Saint’s day, and the money raised was then put towards the expenses of the following year’s homage of the Saint. The pig was then sacrificed and sold as black pudding, sausage and ham. However, the pig is no longer included in the celebrations!.
Day 1 (16th): The first is the ‘Noche del Fuego’ (night of fire) when bonfires are lit throughout the streets during the evening, and there is a procession with fireworks, and visitors and locals come and taste freshly prepared local foods, including Maro’s local dish of goat kid ‘Choto a la Marena’.
The bonfires begin to burn at 7.00pm, after the parade by the village band. An hour later, the largest bonfire of them all is lit in the town square, and the festival prizes are awarded.
Day 2 (17th): A Mass is held in St Anton’s honour in the local church, Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas, in the morning. After this a blessing of the animals and pets that are carried to the door of the church takes place.
In the evening, there is a procession carrying the Saint from the church, accompanied by the local band, with fireworks at 8.00pm, followed by a street party starting at 10.00pm.
Virgen de Fatima
A two day event commemorating La Virgen de Fatima, also known as Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Fátima, which takes place on the 12th and 13th of May. It is a relatively recent festival in Catholic countries, (see its history below), and 2018 marked its first appearance in Maro.
In the evening of the 12th, at about 9.00 pm, there is a floral tribute to the Saint made of white and yellow daisies.
The following day, at around 6.30 pm, there is a mass to the Saint held in the local church. Then, at about 10.00 pm, the Saint is taken off the church altar and carried around the streets of Maro, accompanied by the local church band. To light the progress of the procession, candles, as well as a few small fireworks, are lit.
The Three Secrets of Fátima
May the 13th, 1917, was the first occasion that the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the small village of Fátima in Portugal. The children were tending sheep when they claimed that they had a vision of a woman surrounded by light who identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary. She would appear to them a further five times. During her apparitions the vision exhorted them to pray for world peace and, over the course of the six apparitions, gave the children three ‘secrets’.
After initially questioning the authenticity of the children’s visions, the Vatican accepted them as appearances of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fátima), and Fátima became the location of one of the greatest shrines to Mary in the world, visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. They were canonized as saints by Pope Francis in 2017 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of their visions.
The Three Secrets of Fátima consist of a series of apocalyptic visions and prophecies given to the young Portuguese girls. The messages the Virgin Mary imparted concerned the violent trials that would afflict the world by means of war, starvation, and the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father in the 20th century if the world did not make reparation for sins. They included the prediction of the Second World War, and of the immense damage that Russia might do to humanity, having abandoned Christianity and embraced Communist totalitarianism.
The third ‘secret’ was not revealed until the year 2000, and referred to the persecutions that humanity would undergo in the 20th century, namely that “The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.” The suffering of the Holy Father has been interpreted to include the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981. However, some still claim that all this was not the entire third secret revealed to the girls…
One of Maro’s most important festivals, jointly celebrated with Nerja. It is held in honour of the Axarquia’s most popular saint, San Isidro (patron of farmers and labourers), with a fantastically colourful procession (romeria) from Nerja to Maro.
Festivities start on the 14th May with music and dancing in the grounds of the Caves of Maro until the early hours.
The pilgrimage with the effigy of the saint takes place on the 15th, starting in the church of El Salvador near the Balcón de Europa in Nerja, and finishing in Maro at the Hermitage of San Isidro in Maro, with more music and dancing going on until the early hours!
Probably to discourage people from drinking and driving, as well as to facilitate easy transport for tourists, the Council puts on a special bus service between the Caves and Nerja during the festival.
NEWSFLASH! In 2017, the Cueva de Nerja Foundation asked the council to look for a new location for the celebration of the Pilgrimage, due to the increasing damage done to the gardens surrounding the caves during the festival. However, because they hadn’t yet found a venue that matches the security and comfort of the gardens of La Cueva, the Pilgrimage was again celebrated there. Nevertheless, the partying at night was not allowed on either day – to great local consternation – so watch this space for a change of venue next year…
Festival of the Caves of Nerja
Every year, usually in July, the Festival of Music and Dance is held in one of the vast chambers of the Nerja caves, as well as now in the gardens outside, plus in the Plaza España in Nerja. The festival has become very famous, in fact the Queen of Spain once attended. Notable performers have been Montserrat Cabelle, Kiri de Kanawa and José Carreras.
Prices vary widely. In the interior of the cave you can expect to pay €55.00 (starting price) this year, whereas the concerts in the gardens are €20.00, and the one in the Plaza de España is free. However, if you can manage to afford the ticket to one of the cave concerts it is an unmissable experience – certainly unlike any other venue where you might go for such a concert!
For more details, see see our special Caves of Nerja Guide.
Feria de las Maravillas
In Maro, around 7th to the 9th of September, the village celebrates its patron saint, the Virgen de las Maravillas, as well as its annual feria. It’s another old celebration with origins going back to the 16th century, this one in giving thanks to the Virgen if the crops had grown well during the year.
On the first day, around one in the afternoon, the Virgen is processed out of the church on the main plaza through Maro’s streets accompanied by rockets and fireworks. The local boys and men who had earlier tied their handkerchief to one of the poles of the Virgen’s float to reserve their place, are rewarded by being one of those who have the honour of helping carry it.
Maro’s feria has all the ingredients of the typical late summer celebrations that you’ll encounter in other places like Nerja and Frigiliana, just on a smaller scale – but no less enjoyable for that. Activities are organized with an abundance of music, food and dancing most of which takes place in the village square, la Plaza de las Maravillas, but now also in the car park below.
Each day starts off with a rousing performance by the local drum and bugle band to get everyone in the spirit for the celebrations. There will be plenty more music and also dancing throughout the fiesta by local groups, as well as accomplished artists that are hired in – especially for the final evening concert.
There’s plenty of fun to be had for the whole family with children’s games like sack races, bike and skateboard races, and even egg and spoon races; plus the election of the Feria Queen, bars set up serving refreshments and local dishes, and finally – of course – a grand firework display.
A new innovation for the fiesta is the Dia del Caballo, or Day of the Horse, (photo, left). Having proved popular in other villages in the Axarquia, Maro trialled the event in 2017, and it was a very popular addition to the feria. There are equestrian displays as well as the good old ribbon race (carrera de cintas). Throughout the day awards are given not only to the horse riders, but to the animals being ridden too. Prizes include ‘diplomas’ for humans and sacks of feed for the horses! An area of farmland at the front of Maro opposite the Hotel Playamaro is especially cleared for the event.
On the 31st of October, the day when traditionally Maro celebrated chestnuts and sweet potatoes (Fiesta de la Castaña y el Boniato), it has now come up with another reason to mark the day – or rather the night. Halloween!
No doubt via the influence of a younger generation, one that is familiar with some of Hollywood’s grislier offerings, (I refer in the main to its horror films of course), this festival was introduced to the village just a few years ago.
One has to wonder what the older residents, those that grew up in the embrace of Catholicism, make of it all; not that long ago it was frowned on as a pagan festival. From tombstones and monsters to witches and ghosts, the whole village is decked to distress. But of course October 31st, ‘All Hallows Eve’, has always been celebrated in Spain, despite of – or in spite of – the church. (Read more on the Dia de todos los Santos).
The Maroween party begins at 5:00 pm on the 31st with a street market located on Calle Real, where all kinds of artisanal objects and locally made food is on offer.
There’s music of course, with a DJ set up in the square, and in keeping with the original fiesta, in the evening you can help tuck into over a hundred kilos of roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes. To encourage Nerja residents and holiday makers there’s now a special bus ferrying people between the two villages on the evening of the 31st. Prizes are awarded to the most elaborate costumes for both children and adults, as well as the best decorated houses!
Later in the evening you are invited to enter the interior of a ‘haunted house’! The house is actually the Salon de Usos Multiples on Calle San Miguel which has been suitably spookified!
It is fast becoming one of the must-see festivals in the area, and therefore has recently been extended. So, just when you think you’ve got through Maroween’s night of fear, then in the afternoon the next day (November 1st), the fun continues when you can enjoy a spot of paranormal investigation, (see right for location).
Some years the Caves of Nerja offer a subterranean treat, that, for a small fee of € 5 per person, a limited number are offered a wonderful visit to the caves at night – in the dark! It is best to check at the tourist office in Nerja (next to the town hall) to see whether it’s being put on.
MAROWEEN 2018 ACTIVITIES
Wednesday, October 31:
5.00 p.m. – traditional craft and gastronomy street market on Calle Real, the town brass band parade, the scary makeup workshop and Halloween children’s show.
7:00 p.m. – traditional roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes will be tasted
8:00 p.m. – the passage of the Horrors will take place in Maro’s Salón de Usos Múltiples building.
Afterwards there is music provided by two local groups – Arte Medusa and Mandarina Project.
Thursday, November 1:
6:00 p.m. – “The ouija, a portal to ourselves” is the title of an activity at the Al Andalus Hotel, Maro, in which the terrifying agenda of Maroween will be closed, with the participation of Nerja Parapsychology Research Teams and TCI Spain!
A bus service Nerja – Maro – Nerja will be available from 5:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. The stops will be those of urban bus and in Maro in the entrance to the town.