If you like colorful fancy-dress processions, come to the Tenerife Carnival in February, because it is on the largest Canary Island that this bright and joyful event is celebrated every year on a grand scale. Hundreds of thousands of tourists come to see the Carnival (sometimes their number reaches a million). The grand holiday is considered the second largest in Spain (in the first place is the Carnival in the city of Cadiz, whose webcams work in real time on my website). Canaries themselves believe that the annual event is only slightly inferior in popularity to the Carnival in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
From this article you will learn about the history of the Tenerife Carnival, its traditions and the celebration program in 2020.
How did people begin celebrate the Tenerife Carnival?
The history of this bright holiday is rooted in the time of the conquistadors. It was the Spanish colonialists who brought the traditions of their country to the island in the early 16th century. In the 17th century, in Tenerife, aristocrats began to organize balls and festivities, at which the nobles dressed as ordinary peasants. And in 1638, at a noble wedding, even the king himself, Philip IV, put on a servant’s costume. In those days, costuming balls became fashionable for men to dress in women’s clothing.
But the tradition of covering the face with a mask went from the fair sex. Canary women used them at every celebration to have fun incognito. For several centuries, the Carnival has been the main fun of the rich and the poor. But the Catholic Church disapproved of this riot of fun. Since the inception of the regime of Francisco Franco (1939), carnival on the Canary Island has been banned. Before the death of Generalissimo in 1975, the inhabitants of Tenerife were forced to celebrate a bright event while in their own homes.
In 1976, the island’s authorities held the Winter Festival, thanks to which a large number of tourists began to fly in and out of the Canaries. In the same year, this festival was renamed Carnival. The ban on holding a costume fiesta was lifted. In 1980, a striking event was declared an international holiday of tourist interest. Every year, more and more foreigners and residents of mainland Spain dreamed of seeing the Carnival in Tenerife. In 1987, the holiday even got into the Guinness Book of Records for the fact that at the same time 250,000 participants danced to the music of the orchestra from Venezuela and the song of Cecilia Cruz, a famous singer of salsa.
What is Tenerife Carnival?
Tenerife Carnival takes place before Great Lent (in late February – early March). Time depends on the celebration of Easter and changes every year. In 2020, the Carnival will be held from February 21 to March 1. The festival is celebrated in different cities (Orotava, Candelaria, Puerto de la Cruz), but the largest event is always unfolding in the island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The center of the holiday is the square of Spain, which is decorated with garlands. There is a fountain in an artificial reservoir, but during the Carnival, the area is drained. (Plaza de España can be seen using the Tenerife webcam). Around are sellers of souvenirs, musicians.
Carnival is not only a festive street procession of participants in chic costumes. These are competitions of dance and song groups, concerts, exhibitions, festivities. Everyone is involved in the actions of the holiday – from children to the elderly. Everyone will find something to their liking, and everyone will have fun.
Every year, many tourists and residents of the Canary Islands take part in the festive extravaganza. They can put on a variety of costumes, ranging from clowns and representatives of different professions and ending with the characters of children’s cartoons and blockbusters. By the way, costumes can be bought in advance at gift shops. But at the main procession, the theme of the Tenerife Carnival should be observed, which changes from year to year.
For example, in 1989, the theme was Millennial Egypt, and the streets were filled with Cleopatra, mummies, priests, and ancient Egyptian gods. In 1996, the theme was Mexico, in 1998 – the Middle Ages, in 1999 – horror films, in 2002 – the 20s of the 20th century, in 2014 – cartoons, and in 2018 – science fiction.
In 2020, the themeof Tenerife Carnival will be “The Flirtatious of the year 50”. And this time – a riot of rock and roll, neon lights, the appearance of dudes, bikers, the beginning of the space age. So this year Elvis Presley and Chucky Berry will be walking around Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Election of the Queen of Carnival (Gala de Eleccion de la Reina)
The main participant in a large-scale holiday is the Queen. But her role must be earned. To do this, in Tenerife, a day before the start of the Carnival, a grand competition is organized in which the most beautiful and strong girls of the island take part. Long before this day, the Queen’s aspirant team is developing a costume outfit for her in accordance with the theme of the holiday. An unusual outfit is sewn from tens of meters of expensive fabrics and decorated it with sequins, chains, ribbons and feathers. Usually the girl’s body is only slightly covered by a bikini or a skirt and a bra; on the applicants’s head they set up a luxurious sparkling dress with feathers or precious stones. They say, that all the costumes of girls are paid by sponsors. Each outfit has a name and should tell the jury and the audience its story.
The Queen’s choice is a real show, that is even broadcast on TV. This performance takes place on Wednesday at the Centro Internacional de Ferias y Congresos de Tenerife (International Exhibition and Congress Center). (You can read about the sights of the capital of Tenerife here). A ticket to the show costs 10-15 euros, but it’s better to buy it in advance: there are a lot of people who want to see the Queen’s choice.
During the carnival procession, the girl stands on a platform, that weighs 200 kg and represents one artistic whole with the beauty. At the Carnival you can see not only the Queen, but also platforms with all the applicants. This spectacle is a riot of bright colors, imagination and luxury.
The Announcing Cavalcade (Cabalgada Anunciadora)
Two days after the Queen’s choice of the holiday (Friday), the first procession, or cavalcade, called Cabalgada Anunciadora, takes place in the streets of the city. It announces the beginning of the carnival, hence the name. The cavalcade begins at the Parque de la Granja and moves for several hours to the Plaza de Espana. After 22.00, a folk festival begins in the city squares: dances and concerts.
Over the next three days, show and concert programs, DJ performances, a day carnival, dance performances, and festivities take place in Tenerife. Among them stands out a contest of murgas – groups that sing couplets on topical issues and comparsas – dance groups. And then comes the time of the main carnival procession.
Grand Final – Parade Gran Coso Apoteosis
The day before the start of Lent on Tuesday at 16.00 the most important and large-scale procession starts – a parade. Here it really is worth a look. Before that, the sounds of samba, isaiah, rumba, sarzuela and others are heard on the square of Spain. People occupy the best places for which you need to pay a few euros. The rest are crowding wherever they can. The procession runs along the promenade. This is a spectacular and colorful event. From bright costumes later begins to ripple in the eyes, but to see the Carnival is worth at least 1 time in life, especially since getting to Tenerife is easier than to Brazil.
In the evening, the celebration ends with a gorgeous fireworks display, but until late at night, people continue to have fun: sing, dance, drink beer and eat traditional Canarian dishes.
The Funeral of Sardina (Entierro de la Sardina)
The next day, on Ash Wednesday, when Lent of Catholics around the world begins, another interesting event takes place in Tenerife – The Funeral of Sardine, the roots of the celebration of which go back to the 18th century. The main heroine of the holiday is a giant papier-mache fish with painted eyelashes and red lipstick on the lips created by the hands of prisoners. When dusk falls on the city, Sardina is carried through the streets by men in sad masks and dark robes. They wail and cry. A funeral procession follows along the promenade to Plaza de España, where a large fire has already been lit. On its fire and burn sardines, like Shrovetide. Then they again begin to have fun, sing, move to the music.
Tenerife Carnival finish
In the next 2-3 days after, festivities continue in the capital of the island, but on a smaller scale. For example, a children’s procession takes place, for which, by the way, the Queen is also chosen. And at the end of the holiday over the city you can see the fireworks.
How to get to the Carnival?
If you want to see the Canary Carnival, you need to buy a plane ticket (you can do this on the side bar of my website) and book accommodation in advance (Hotellook service). As I already wrote, the main events will be held in the capital of the island, the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. If you arrive at Tenerife South Airport, you can use the public transport services (TITSA buses). Buses Nos. 110 and 111 go from the airport to the capital. From Los Rodeos (Tenerife Norte Airport), you can get to Santa Cruz de Tenerife by buses nos. 102,104, 107 and 108.
The election of the Queen of Carnival
Beginning at 21:30
Admission by ticket (10 and 15 €)
Venue – Centro Internacional de Ferias y Congresos de Tenerife.
The first procession (Cabalgata)
Beginning at 20:00
From Plaza de la Republica Dominicana through Avenida Asuncionista, Ramon y Cajal, Galceran, Plaza de Weyler, Mendez Nunez, Pilar, Villalba Hervas, La Marina to the seafront.
From 22:30 a night carnival: festivities and dances in the Plaza del Principe, Plaza de la Candelaria and the promenade.
From 5:30 p.m. shows on Plaza del Principe, Plaza de la Candelaria and the seafront
21:00 – competition of dance groups – comparsas (Ritmo y Armonia)
Prospect Avenida de Francisco la Roche (promenade)
C 22:30 night carnival: festivities and dances in the Plaza del Principe, Plaza de la Candelaria and the promenade
From 13:00 a day carnival: concerts and festivities in all city venues
At 22:30 a concert program and dancing in the Plaza de la Candelaria
At 17:30 show programs in the Plaza del Principe, Plaza de la Candelaria and the promenade
At 11:00 a concert program in the Plaza del Principe
16:00 – the main carnival procession – Coso Apoteosis del Carnaval 2020
Avenida de Francisco la Roche and Maritima (seafront)
At 20:00 a concert and dance in the Plaza de la Candelaria
22:00 – funeral of the sardine
Procession along the streets of Juan Pablo II, Mendez Nunez, Pilar, Villalba Hervas, La Marina and Plaza de Espana. Burning sardines on the waterfront.
At 22:30 concerts, dances and festivities in the Plaza del Principe
28th of February
18:00 – children’s carnival procession
Parque Garcia Sanabria Park, then Calle del Pilar,
VIllalba Hervas and La Marina
From 23:30 night carnival: festivities and dances in the Plaza del Principe, Plaza de la Candelaria and the promenade
From 13:00 a day carnival: concerts and festivities
From 21:30 night carnival: festivities and dances in the Plaza del Principe, Plaza de la Candelaria and the promenade
12:00 – parade of vintage cars on the promenade
18:00 – closing of the carnival, fireworks at the end (approximately at 21:00)
Plaza de la Candelaria