As a country, Spain is filled with culture and traditions. And within each region, there is typically an anual tradition they are specifically known for. In my past blog, I talked about Las Fallas of Valencia, but this week’s blog is dedicated to Alicante’s very own Fiesta de Santa Faz.
La Fiesta of Santa Faz is a religious walk residents of Alicante take from City Hall to the Santa Faz monastery. The walk is sort of a sign of faith, where most individuals pray for something and in return promise to take the walk. At the start of the walk thousands of people are led by important religious figures, city officials and of course the “Santa Faz of Christ.” When I asked my host mother what exactly is the Santa Faz of Christ, she explained to me that it is said to be 1/4 of the original towel Mary Magdalen gave to Christ to wipe his face, and apparently it still holds the facial imprint.
Every year on the second Thursday after Easter residents start the walk at around 7am but, you can actually begin whenever you want. And to reach the monastery, it takes about about 2 hours. After being encouraged to participate in Santa Faz by my host family, I gave in and decided to start my walk at 10:30am. It was a windy sunny day and the streets weren’t as packed as I expected them to be at the start of the walk. I expected to see more elders in the walk since most of them still practice the Catholic religion, but to my surprise there were people of all ages.
Families with small children, young people,middle aged couples, and the elderly all took part in the Fiesta de Santa Faz, specifically the walking part. As I walked, every few miles there would be stands that sold typical Santa Faz pastries, and wine. I personally didn’t stop to try any of it because the lines for it were ridiculous. At the walk, there were also radio stations that played popular American music to excite the crowd.
After one pit stop and 1.5 hours I finally reached Santa Faz.
That sign was much needed because all I’ve been doing was following the crowd. I didn’t know which monastery to look for until I saw one far off into the distance, past the Santa Faz sign.
(The people are holding sugar canes because it’s a tool they use to help them along their walk)
Just like my host family had warned me, the line to reach the inside of Santa Faz was never ending. People from all across Alicante, decided that waiting in line for about another hour was worth it in order to listen to mass. For me, I just decided to take a picture with the structure as proof that I had completed the walk.
Even though Santa Faz is a religious tradition in Alicante, majority of the public are not followers of the Catholic faith. Within the last 10 years this number has dropped, not only in Alicante but Spain as a country. The Spanish that fit in this category are either atheists, or believers that don’t do much. The confusing part for me is that people still take part in Holy Week processions and other religious holidays and parties whether they believe or not. It’s almost like they do it because it’s tradition and it requires little commitment in comparison to attending mass every week. Their families have been doing it for centuries, so why stop now?
As for the teenagers, they actually do attend the Santa Faz walk but they don’t necessarily stop at the monastery, instead they continue for a few more miles until they reach San Juan beach. For them, Santa Faz is just a day of no school where they can party with their friends at the beach.
I actually decided to go to the beach to relax after having walked for 3 hours but that was cut short by all the high school and middle school students that showed up playing loud music and fooling around.
So if you ever make it to Alicante during Santa Faz, I encourage you to go but beware of the teenagers if you plan to rest a bit at the beach.