This weekend will see one of Lanzarote’s oldest and most colourful fiestas: the salt carpets that greet Corpus Christi.
Corpus Christi celebrates the holy sacrament, and the theme of the celebrations is the transient beauty of life. It is celebrated in different ways throughout Spain, many of which seem strange such as the jumping over babies that goes on in Burgos or the famous dancing egg of Barcelona (an egg suspended in a fountain).
In the Canaries, the traditional way of celebrating is to lay beautiful “carpets” of fresh flowers on the night before. These are then displayed on Sunday morning before a procession from the church tramples all over them. On Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife the streets are filled with the scent of countless flowers.
But a quick look around Lanzarote will confirm that flowers aren’t very common, and are certainly not available in the quantities required for the Corpus Christi celebrations. The solution is something we have plenty of: sea salt.
This evening, Saturday June 10th, lorries will dump tonnes of brightly dyed sea salt on the streets of Arrecife that surround the church of San Ginés. Once they’ve done so, dozens of small groups will start work on their carpets.
These artists come from various charities, organisations and groups, often with a religious link. They use laths of wood, trowels and other tools to carefully recreate a design that often represents a religious theme, and many of them will be at work until late at night.
Once day breaks on Sunday, locals arrive to admire the carpets, shimmering in the early morning sunlight. At 12 noon, a special Mass is held in the church and the procession leaves, trudging over each and every carpet. Afterwards, local children who have come prepared with jars and bottles, fill them with layers of the multicoloured sand – a pretty souvenir of the day.
Last year there was anger when the city awoke to discover that an unknown local had ignored the closure of the street and driven their car over a few of the carpets, so it’s possible there may be more vigilance this year.
Salt carpets are also laid outside the churches in Tías, Teguise, Yaiza, Haría, Tinajo and San Bartolomé.
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