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Experience the Magic of Moors and Christians Fiestas in Moraira, Spain

9 Jul 2024

If you were lucky enough to be in Moraira last week, you would have experienced the magic of Los Moros y Cristianos (the Moors and Christians festival). This vibrant and culturally rich event celebrates the historical battles between the Moors (Muslims) and Christians during Spain's Reconquista period over the 8th to the 15th century. Held annually in June, it's one of Moraira’s most significant and anticipated events, drawing in locals and visitors alike. The festival not only honours this historical period but also serves as a celebration of our rich cultural heritage and tradition.

The festival features elaborate reenactments of battles, complete with period costumes and weapons. Traditional music and dance performances fill the streets and to mark the end of the festival there are spectacular fireworks that light up the sky. Throughout the festivities, local food and drink are available, so you can enjoy traditional Spanish cuisine like tapas, paella, and regional wines. The town is alive with a wonderful atmosphere and is fun for all the family, locals and visitors.

We are very lucky that two of our very own team members at Select Villas were involved with the fiestas this year, so we sat down with Daniel Klinzmann, our Office/Sales Support Consultant, to get some insight about Moraira Moors and Christians fiesta, and with Karen Lynch-our Company Administrator, about her involvement in the inland town of Pego celebrations with its patron saint festivities in honour of the Most Holy Ecce-Homo and the Moors and Christians on June 27 to 30 June.

A Personal Touch: Insights from Select Villas Team Members at the Moors & Christians Fiestas

What is the meaning behind the Moors and Christians fiesta?

It is a 3-day celebration to reproduce the historical conflicts that represents the town. The Moros (Moors) came over from North Africa and tried to invade the Hispanic peninsula. So, on the 1st day of the festival, it is the Moors that win the war, and in fact they stayed in Spain for several hundred years. On the 2nd day we do the reconquest, and the Cristianos (Christians) win the castle back. It all ends on the 3rd day which is the big gala event in the best dresses where we all parade through the streets. The last day is very special because the Moors and Christians reacting battles with ancient style guns, dressing colourful costumes to depict the Middle Ages and the town is submerged in smoke and the atmosphere of a great battle, The whole event ends when Saint George rides on his white horse to celebrate the miracle.

Tell us how did you get involved in Moors and Christian fiesta?

Daniel It’s a family tradition, my Mum was involved, so ever since I was 5 years old, I have been part of it.

Karen - Had seen it for many years when living in Oliva and Pego and one year was invited by a member of the fila to join in, and then the following year they were the Capitan’s and I joined as a member and have been with them ever since which is now over 19 years ago.

So can anyone get involved?

Daniel - There are several different “Comparsas” or Filas (Troupes) some for men only, women only or mixed groups, and anyone can join in.

In Moraira we have over 30 members, but compared to other towns it is small, for example Alcoy in Alicante have over 700 members. For new members wanting to join, everyone must give their approval to join and be voted in, but every Fila is different. The youngest member this year was a 4-month-old baby, and the oldest member is 74, so all ages can take part and there is no limit on how many members are involved.

Daniel's wife Ania and his daughter Giovanna 6 years old, are also members now so it’s a real family tradition and it is like this for many families.

Karen - Our Fila in Pego was founded in 1995 and it’s an all-female Càbila (tribe), that first started with 15-20 members and now it is up to 50 members, and we have an additional 20 that collaborate with us in the fiesta and join in fund raising and events throughout the year.

How long does the preparation take?

Daniel - During the year there is preparation for these 3 festival days. Every month we meet and get together, we share birthday events together, sports like football matches so it’s a real social community for the whole family. Some of my now best friends were made during these events over the years from childhood. The focus of course is to raise much needed funds for the event. We do this fund raising in many ways, for example a Xmas lottery, padel tournaments, several events during year, and of course the Big Shitting- to come up with the funds.

Karen - Have meetings every month and have different committees within the Càbila (meeting place) who do the organising. From the makeup and dresses, to deciding on the fund raising throughout the year, even all the food and drink catering for all the celebrations must be planned and paid for. Some of things we organise include celebrating International Women’s Day, where we invite woman from all over town to join in. We have had evening wine tasting and tapas events and bring theatres to town to have a play, for example at Xmas we organise a Nativity. So, it is a whole year of work and participating with other filas to make these fiestas happen.

Ok Daniel you must explain to us what is the “Big shitting”?

This is something great fun that everyone comes together to watch and get involved. Lines are drawn on the floor into a thousand squares. Every member must sell tickets at €5 each for each square and the total prize is €1000. A real Bull is brought in from one of the neighbouring farms and it is led onto the squares. Whichever square the bull defecates in so (“shits in”) the person who has that square wins the €1000! It is very safe as the bulls are fenced in and it has become a great fun event where anyone can get involved and win the prize. It’s a way to finance the fila, but it can be anything from concerts to small events that we organise, but it takes a whole year to prepare and raise these funds.

During the fiesta, how do you decide what role you will play?

Daniel - It depends on the year; every year 2 members are elected to join the “Junta Central” (The Central Board) who organise everything and decide who will do what part on the main shows and what the parade will consist of, and the Musicians are chosen. Capitanears change every 6 years, every year it is from a different Fila, one Christian and one Moor. The captain does not have to be a member of the Fila, but they end up being the centre figure, and they take on a special role on the beach enactment and as the main character of the gala.

Karen - We are an official association and registered, so have statutes to form part of the National Federation of Fiestas. The committees decide the roles, you can move around the groups and take on different role each year. However, every member participates in the Friday Parade l’Ambaixa which is the battle.

There is always excitement about what animal will feature, how does that happen?

Daniel - Every Fila can choose what animal they want to bring for the gala march, but it does cost a lot of money to hire the animals. We are the only fila who brings animals every year, there is now always a beautiful black horse who joins in the parade, and this year we also had geese. In previous years, Camels, Donkeys and even Elephants were used and that could cost thousands, but with laws and restrictions exotic animals cannot be used, it is now just the smaller animals and horses that can be used, but there is always excitement around the secret animal!

Karen - Wild animals no longer participate, we do have horses, but we now have theatre groups who act as animals, last year we had ¨alligators¨ that were actors in elaborate mechanical costumes which were so lifelike and colourful instead of using live animals.

How about the costumes? They are very elaborate and beautiful

Daniel - Every Fila owns their own Chilaba (everyday dress) costume, but for the big gala every year the costume is chosen and rented. This year we wore make up and some other Fila had hats with lights in that shone on the makeup, so it’s like putting on a show. We try and find something to make it even more spectacular and elaborate each year and it is taken very seriously.

Karen - Each year we rent out different costumes for the main parade on Saturday, but everyone owns their own costume for the Friday parade, the Ambaixà (battle). During the day we all wear our Gel.laba (informal Moorish or Christian dress).

And the costumes have different colours, what is this for?

Daniel - It depends on the role being played and every Fila sticks to their own style and colours. We are Caballeros del Rey don Jaime (the knights) so our colours are Silver, Gold and Blue and white and red crosses.

Karen - The colours come from the Fila, and ours is the ¨Algarades¨ knight warriors, which is dark blue and silver. The main supplier is in the city of Alcoy and the committee goes and chooses the dresses and decides on the make-up. For the fiesta parades Professional hair and make-up artists are brought in. It’s all very elaborate and time consuming so a lot of preparation goes in.

The Moors ‘outfits are usually bold colours with intricate embroidery, while the Christians are recognised by their sleek, armour covered costumes.

It sounds like it is a lot of hard work, do you enjoy it?

DanielIt is steeped in tradition, and aside from actual event being involved gets all the community together. We work the whole year to make it happen it, so on the final gala marches it can get very emotional, there are often a few tears from all involved. Mix of fun, emotions and hard work all the year for these special 3 days.

Karen - Yes, we do indeed, you must try. We have many laughs together and good moments, a lot of good friends have been made throughout the years. Originally from Ireland, I am a foreigner here so participating in local communities, gives me a sense of what it is like to live here in the Mediterranean, it is a very enriching experience.

For Daniel it is his favourite 3 days of the year and outranks even Christmas and New Year’s Eve!

Join the Festivities and Immerse Yourself in Spanish Culture

Not every town in the region hosts a Moors and Christians festival, but it is quite a popular tradition in many towns across the Valencian Community. Each town schedules its festival at different times between the months of April to October.

Each town adds its unique touch to the festival, reflecting its own local history and community spirit, so if you are in this part of Spain over the next few months its worth checking to see what fiestas and festivals are on.

Thanks to both Daniel and Karen for sharing their stories and giving us this personal insight to the fiesta.

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