Crosses of May
The feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross is celebrated on May 3, in commemoration of the discovery of the remains of the Cross of Christ, made by Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, who was the one who officialized the Christian religion in the Roman Empire.
This commemoration, like many others, was associated with pagan traditions around trees or mayos, which celebrated the resurgence of nature at the beginning of the month in which spring reaches its peak. Around a tree usually whose trunk was cut and moved to the center of the village and decorated, it was sung, eaten, drank and celebrated nature. Hence, in many places they combined both traditions decorating the urban crosses or term especially with flowers, bowers and fruit ornaments, in a mixed tradition that has come to this day. In many cases temporary crosses are enabled to decorate them in the streets, generating a colorful show and full of spring joy.
In Sant Joan d’Alacant this celebration was traditionally celebrated in the Plaza de la Cruz, located in the old town where there is a metal cross on a high pedestal of ashlars as a cross term. Generally these simple and devout monuments marked concrete places of the population and usually, the entrance or exit of the municipalities and towns. In the Huerta de Alicante we find three in urban area: one mentioned in the square of the Cross of Sant Joan, another in front of the hermitage of Benimagrell, and another before the Monastery of the Holy Face, the latter completely modified and distorted with respect to its origin.
The traditional feast of the Cross in Sant Joan consisted of typical dances, lighting and vervain in the square, while the cross remained decorated and the religious acts of the celebration took place in the church or in that picturesque urban space. It was another edition known as ‘festes del carrer’ but in this case in the nice square. However, the festivals of the Cross were declining until they disappeared in the second half of the twentieth century.
Fortunately they were recovered in 2009 by the Casa de Andalucía Rafael Alberti de Sant Joan newly created then, providing a new image of Andalusian cultural flavor, closely linked to celebrations such as the cross of May.
On the Sunday after May 3, the feast is celebrated. From the headquarters of this association, located in Carrer del Mercat, the procession starts with several people dressed in regional Andalusian and Valencian costumes accompanied by music, usually the Sargantana colla dolçaina i tabalet. The picturesque parade in which several festival and cultural associations, as well as authorities, also participate, goes first to the Plaza de la Cruz where the cross and its pedestal are decorated with flowers and walls of murta, while singing, listening to the music and having a little snack. From there, the motorcade departs to Benimagrell where the same procedure is performed with the cross located in front of the hermitage of San Roque, an act followed by a popular and festive lunch for the attendees.
It is a very celebrated party throughout our geography and also very much appreciated especially in the nearby neighborhoods of the Cross of Alicante, and the Ravalet of Mutxamel.
Did you know that...?
The feast of the Invention of the Cross has no liturgical character at present and was suppressed in favor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, of September 14, which in Sant Joan is the ‘Day of the Christ’ around which the major feasts are celebrated.
Plaza de la Cruz was an important social and cultural meeting place in Sant Joan since among other urban elements, there was one of the public supply wells, later transformed into a fountain after the arrival of drinking water. It was also installed in the 20th century, a gas station that served the cars that ran along the road of Valencia that crossed the street San JosÃ©-Mayor.
In this square also resided estivalmente the chronicler of the city of Alicante of the nineteenth century, D. Rafael Viravens, house that was a center of cultural encounter and in which the idea of founding the band of Sant Joan arose.
Next to the crosses of this square and of Benimagrell, could exist more crosses of term in the municipality as that situated to the outskirts at the end of the street San Antonio, in a place still known as ‘La Creueta’ that perhaps makes reference to the establishment here of a cross of term.
The crosses of Sant Joan, Benimagrell and Santa Faz were destroyed during the Civil War and later rebuilt.