Spain is a fascinating country with many Fiestas, one for every week it seems. These colourful festivals are based on age-old traditions and legends. Some are quite unique. La Noche en Vela, the Sleepless Night, is held every August in the medieval village of Aledo, tucked high in the mountains. I decide I must check this one out.
A bus takes us through dense pine forests and climbs up the winding roads of the Sierra Espuña, in the province of Murcia, to a fortified hilltop town offering gorgeous vistas overlooking the valley. I am immediately transported to another time and place.
We wait in anticipation at the gates of the old town as only so many are allowed in at one time. Once inside the ancient walls, we wander up to the imposing castle tower and the cathedral of Santa Maria la Real in the town square. A pigeon rests on a sculpture above the cathedral door and watches as the usually quiet town fills with curious visitors. We watch a flamenco dancer and listen to a duo sing a soulful Spanish melody.
Also known as Candle Night, the streets of Aledo´s old town are lit by over four thousand candles. As the sun sets, the village takes on a supernatural glow. The citizens, many who have lived there for generations, proudly show off their candlelight displays. We are entertained with music, dancing and poetry readings. It is a magical evening.
The night wears on. Candles flicker on the castle walls, demons dance along the narrow streets and children sing. Spirits of the past, inhabitants from prehistoric times, as well as Romans, Moors, and Christian knights mingle with those of us in present times. I am mesmerized and don´t want the night to end.
The town has a rich history due to its strategic location and its role played in battles for supremacy between the Moors and Christian knights. The legend supposedly behind this festival is of a Princess who lived in the tower and fell in love with a soldier. Every night she waits for him to return from battle. He lights a candle upon his return to let her know he is alive. She stays up all night waiting to see the candle flame.
Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter. The ambience creates a feeling of being part of history, as I wander the intimate narrow streets that so many have trod before. I am so glad I came.
All the photographs in this post are courtesy of Darlene Foster.
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Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She also believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. It’s no surprise that she’s now an award-winning author of children’s adventure books who divides her time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain.
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