During the second half of the month of August the Moors and Christians’ festival, dedicated to the town’s patrons, Saint Sebastian and Saint Bartholomew, is celebrated. This three-day festival in Jijona is mentioned in documents going back to the 18th century. The most emblematic act and that which distinguishes our Moors and Christians’ festival from any other is the “Trial of the Traitor Moor”, which is celebrated on the third morning of the festival. During the act, a Moor who has sold out his brothers for love is tried. Having been captured by his comrades he is tried and executed after which all the Moors take part in his funeral procession. During the trial both prosecution and defence make their cases with humour, recapping the principal happenings in the town during the previous twelve months.
A LITTLE HISTORY
In the Town Hall minutes of January 10th 1791 we find a document which proves the celebration of the Moors and Christians’ festival as part of the festival for the patron Saint Sesbastian.
In the last quarter of the 19th century with the appearance of new groups of participants, the process of regulating these began with the preparation of the first statutes which also governed the organizing body. The Moors and Christians’ festivals continued throughout the 20th century alternating their traditional dates until in 1905 they moved from January to August to commemorate Saint Bartholomew as well.
EVENTS IN THE MOORS AND CHRISTIANS’ FESTIVALS
This is celebrated on the last Saturday of February, and dramatizes the fact that there remains only half a year before once again paying homage to the town’s patrons and marching through the streets.
El Senyal (The deposit)
This is celebrated on July 24th and commemorates the miracle of Saint Sebastian which took place on July 24th 1600 and which stopped the spread of the Plague to Jijona. The name derives from the fact that in days gone by the festival participants paid a deposit to confirm their participation in that year’s festival.
These are informal processions which serve as a taster for the main festival. They are celebrated every Saturday between the day of the “Senyal” and the three days of the festival proper.
The Three Main Days
These days the three most important days of the festival are the Saturday, Sunday and Monday closest to the twenty-fourth.
The first day of the festival:
· Presentation of the bands
· Performance of the Festival Anthem
· “La Banyà”
· “La Entrada” (The Entrance)is one of the most important events in the festival and attracts the highest numbers of participants and members of the public. It commences at the Alicante bridge and continues along Constitution Avenue ( “La Plaza”)
The second day of the festival:
· Las Dianas – (reveille)
· Embassies of the Smugglers and the Pirates
· Alardo (a recreation of a battle to symbolize and commemorate the fight between the Moors and the Christians)
· Embassies of the Moors and the Christians
· Night-time procession
· “La Retreta” The Retreat (an event to let off steam, for the participants to enjoy themselves. It is a kind of carnival in which the participants can criticize their locality or bring up an issue)
The third day of the festival:
· The Traitor Moor
· El Kabileo (this is not precisely a festive event, rather it is where everybody gets together, neighbours and visitors alike, to share a beer and eat during the days of the festival.) The visitor takes full part in the festival and is made to feel at home.
· Parade to mark the handover of command for the following year’s festival
· Religious procession