By Linda Hall •
Published: 01 Oct 2023 • 11:26
NOVEMBER 1: Artificial flower arrangements for All Saints’ Day in Xativa
Photo credit: Linda Hall
ONCE you leave the Costa Blanca and go inland you begin to get an idea of what Spain is like.
There’s more than 200 kilometres to the Costa Blanca, which covers all of the Alicante province coastline, starting out in Denia and finishing in Torre de la Horadada. What’s more, the name is relatively new as it was invented for a 1957 advertising campaign for British European Airways, promoting Alicante when Britons venturing as far as Spain usually chose the Costa Brava or Costa del Sol.
Why they settled on White Coast is anybody’s guess, but the name stuck and 66 years later, it’s obvious that the campaign paid off.
Sometimes I feel it was so successful that the entire Valencian Community has morphed into the Costa Blanca, although there are still things about Xativa in Valencia province, where I now live, to remind me that it hasn’t.
That includes finding mistletoe not for Christmas but for Santa Lucia’s Day on December 13 on when you burn last year’s and hang up a fresh bunch behind your front door. Kissing is not involved although on the plus side, it brings you 12 months of luck.
There’s the region’s version of St Valentine’s Day, Sant Dionis, on October 9, when young men traditionally present their sweethearts with miniature marzipan fruits tied up in a silk handkerchief.
“How pretty,” I thought the first time I saw them in bakeries in early October, wondering why they didn’t sell them all year round until I was let into the secret.
Then there are the ornate plastic flower arrangements which appear in all the florists in late September, not just one or two for people who like that sort of thing but enough to fill a botanical garden.
They are specially made and designed for the cemeteries on November 1, All Saints’ Day, when it is still the custom to adorn the tombs and niches of recently dead or long-deceased relatives.
It makes sense, especially as the flowers don’t wither and if firmly fixed they can even last until next time round although I had never seen them, or perhaps hadn’t noticed, until I left the Costa Blanca behind.
When I first lived in Spain, I realised that their balconies and patios might be overgrown by mini-jungles but my husband’s own family only associated indoor flowers with death and the dead.
November 1 was one day when they bought cut flowers although when I went to live in rural, frugal Altea 30 years ago, everybody with a garden cultivated a fine crop of chrysanthemums to take to the cemetery.
It took me a long time to cotton on to why chrysanthemums, which abound in Spain in the autumn, were not as prized as they were at the time when I left England.
“They’re flowers for the dead, what everyone takes to the cemetery on All Saints’ Day,” my mother-in-law told me.
More than half a century later they might still be doing that in Madrid, but in Xativa 2023 they have a nice line in tastefully arranged plastic flowers without a chrysanthemum in sight.
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Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share?
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