After the emotional Semana Santa with all its seriousness, passion, sadness, and finally forgiveness, the Spanish quickly move on Día de la Cruz (Day of the Cross). Despite the name, it’s one of the few fiestas that doesn’t have a close religious connection. It takes place on the 3rd of May, where crosses are put up all over town. The decorations can vary from place to place according to local traditions, but they’re all centered on the cross decorated with flowers and surrounded by traditional objects.
Woman and girls dress in traditional flamenco dresses and it’s a day of true joy. Everything is alegre as music plays from every makeshift bar set up on plazas and streets and the rhythmic steps and claps from the traditional Sevillana dance creates a true atmosphere of fiesta. It’s a day for wine, fine sherry and social enjoyment; the complete opposite to the recently celebrated holiday.
The exact origin of Día de la Cruz has been lost through history, but there is some evidence supporting a religious origin. The legend tells of the emperor Constantino, who was losing the battle against an enormous and barbaric army. He then had a vision of the cross with the message “with this sign you shall win”. He immediately built a cross and put it in front of his troops that proceeded to easily winning the battle.
Upon his return he sent his mother, Santa Elena, to Jerusalem to search for the original cross of Jesus Christ. When she arrived she found three bloody crosses. To find out which one was the true original cross she held each of them to the sick or deceased. The original cross of Jesus Christ would heal and resurrect. From there on the believers started celebrating the found of the Santa Cruz – the holy cross.
However, there’re a lot of questions to be asked about this story, especially as references to the cross have been found from before the era of Canstantino.
In any case, many of the traits of the fiesta as its known today have most resemblance with certain Roman celebrations. May has always been the time for celebrating nature, the blooming of spring, and the first historical references to the popular definition of Día de la Cruz is not found till around the 18th century.
Whatever the origin, today the celebration of the cross is about happiness, music and dance, and it marks the beginning of the festivities of spring and summer in Spain.