Carnaval 2017 in Alhama de Granada

This year the Carnaval will be held on 26, 27 and 28 February and 3 March. The big finale is on the Sunday which falls six weeks before Easter Sunday, which this year is Sunday 5 March (Domingo de Piñata).


 The Carnaval in Alhama de Granada is one of the oldest in Spain, dating back to 1571 when the Alcalde received a letter communicating the victory in Lepanto. It was agreed in a Council meeting to celebrate the victory observing the following:

To make wax axes and a shield for all Councillors and everyone that will be mounting a horse;
To make wax lanterns for the Town Hall, Church and Fortress;
To proclaim the victory in Lepanto to the population,
That people wear their costumes freely during the whole day until Sunday night without carrying any weapons or masks; and
To light bonfires in every house or be fined 1.000 maravedis, paid to the poor.

They named people to organise the celebrations. On 8 November 1571 it was agreed:

That the celebrations should start the following Saturday;
Not to give a wax axe to anyone that is not mounted on a horse; and
To buy gunpowder and paper for the soldiers and lighting as agreed by the organisers

 The first written reference to the Alhama Carnaval and the fashion of the Alhameños dressing up in costumes and wearing white masks dates back to the sixteenth century when it was customary to dress up and wear masks when celebrating important events.

 The Carnaval would suffer a long pause, when in February 1937 an order established its suspension due to the exceptional circumstances that the country was going through (the Civil War). However in subsequent years the Murgas and Mascaras were still coming out singing songs, however, if the Guardia Civil approached they would run, disperse and hide. Decades later this order was still in force and there were many Murguistas and Mascaras who suffered persecution and ended up in jail.
 In 1980, the Carnaval de Alhama was fully reinstated as a popular celebration which took place every year on the weekend prior to Ash Wednesday and the Sunday after with the popular Domingo de Piñata. One of the main characteristics of the Carnaval has been that the songs called ¨lequillos¨ have been passed from generation to generation, they started as songs that farmers and builders used to sing and during Carnaval time they would repeat them in calles and plazas.

 The Murgas are groups of people, initially of the same trade, family or groups of friends who would dress up in mascara and improvise musical instruments out of everyday items. The Comparsas are musical groups who will compose, play and sing special songs to celebrate Carnaval. These songs normally entail criticism to the establishment. Since 1980 these groups are mainly friends, clubs, schools and are formed by people who are from Alhama and other towns and villages who share their songs with the townspeople on Domingo de Piñata.

 In times gone by, for the last day of Carnaval called Domingo de Piñata, Piñatas were made in the figure of the most unpopular person in the town and would be hit with a stick by the children and townspeople until broken. It was filled with fruits, sweets, nuts and almonds and would be swung by a rope between two balconies in the streets of Alhama. Unfortunately the Piñatas are no longer part of the Carnaval celebration.

Modern day Carnaval

 During Carnaval, people of Alhama dress up; men dress as women and women dress as men. A unique feature is the faces painted onto white cloth taken from pillowcases to complete the disguise (see below).

 This was a tradition banned by Franco because the disguises were used to satirise and criticise Government and the only places in Spain to uphold the tradition to this day are Alhama and Sevilla.

NOTE: In 2018 the Carnaval will be celebrated on 11, 12 and 13 February and Domingo de Piñata will be 18 February 2018.
By Lawrence Strong

With special thanks to Silverio Gàlvez Moyano and with reference to the following publications:
Memoria viva del Carnaval de Alhama de Granada (1917-1979) Ayuntamiento de Alhama/Concejalia Carnaval.
ALHAMA La Huella de una Cuidad en sus documentos1568-1637. Salvador Raya Retamero.