May Crosses in the style of Valencia!

In the first days of May, many cities around the world are embellished with crosses adorned with flowers. Every May 3rd, Valencia is covered with colourful sculptures that welcome spring. If you have ever wondered why this curious custom happens, we invite you to continue reading today’s article.

The tradition of the May Cross dates back to Roman times. It turns out that St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, found the original cross where Jesus was crucified on Golgotha. Hence its official and liturgical name is “The Invention of the Holy Cross”. This discovery took place precisely on May 3rd.

However, other sources trace its roots to pre-Christian pagan rites. It is said that, in ancient times, the Celts used to worship the tree as a source of sustenance and good fortune. This practice has been documented also among the Germanic, Slavic and Greek tribes, and was even a tradition of the Romans themselves.

The ritual consisted of “dressing” the tree with the most precious flowers of the season, with the aim of honoring the arrival of good weather and thanking the gods for the promised prosperity.

Over time, as happened with the Fallas of Valencia, a syncretism between religion and the profane took place. The celebration acquired a religious character and ended up replacing the previous one.

The first festivity in honor of the Santa Cruz de Mayo dates back to the 17th century. Historians agree that it was Granada, a city in southern Spain, that most strongly embraced this particular tradition.

Years later, due to the Spanish conquest process, the festivity spread throughout the American continent. Nowadays, many Spanish-speaking countries continue to decorate their crosses with garlands of flowers during the month of May.

In Valencia, every 3rd of May, the streets are filled with a picturesque display of crosses, set up in different parts of the city. As well as commemorating the discovery of the Holy Cross, the Valencians take part in a competition to choose the best creation – another thing in common with the Fallas!

The idea came from the Society “Lo Rat Penat”, a group dedicated to the promotion, defense, teaching and dissemination of the Valencian language and culture. Supported by the Valencia City Council, they organise the traditional Concurs de Creus de Maig every year.

Who can participate in the May Crosses contest?

Any cultural or commercial entity, Fallas commissions, schools, parishes, festival committees and individuals. The only requirement is that they must be registered in the municipality.

What are the requirements for the competition?

First of all, you have to register. This year the deadline for registration was the 29th of April, so you will have to wait until the next one to take part.

The crosses must be made with natural, fresh flowers. Although other resources can be used, such as dried flowers, plants, stones, fountains or any other element that contributes to improving the aesthetics.

And the most important thing! All crosses must be installed before 8:30 a.m. on May 3rd.

From this date onwards, people will be able to enjoy the creativity of the locals and look for their favorite cross. One of the most impressive is the one installed in Valencia’s Town Hall square. Although it is not part of the competition, it is usually one of the most visited and appreciated.

In addition, masses and religious offerings will be held in all the neighborhoods of Valencia. Afterwards, the festival will begin, and people will enjoy music, dancing and typical Valencian food.

After the plantà of the crosses, the elected jury will have the power to vote for the winning entries. The prizes range from 300 to 1.000 euros. In this edition, there will also be an Extraordinary prize for the best floral composition. Besides that, all the crosses registered and installed will receive an extra 200 euros.

In addition to the exhibition, some of the local associations have revived old traditions, such as the Canto de los Mayos (singing of the Mayos) or the Dançaes. Without a doubt, it will be a show worth seeing, especially if you are interested in Valencian culture.

From El Rincón del Tándem, we invite our students and the general public to reserve a space in their agenda for this Friday, 3rd of May. Although the crosses usually will be on display for some days, we recommend that you go and see them as soon as possible, as the natural flowers lose their splendor over time.

We hope you enjoyed today’s article and that you have learned a little more about this flourishing Hispanic custom. Don’t miss our next post!

Remember that in our Spanish courses you will learn this and much more. Take a look at our course list and start improving your Spanish now!