A Picnic with Jesus
Just like those pilgrims who gathered to go to Canterbury in the fourteenth century, the people of Cartajima get excited about embarking on a pilgrimage, a picnic with Jesus in fact! Not in “Aprill, with his shoures soote” but at the beginning of June. Not Canterbury or even Rome, but the hill behind the village. The word in Spanish for this event is romeria which refers back to a pilgrimage to Rome itself.
In common with Chaucer’s pilgrims, they intend to have a lot of fun once the mass is over. The Andalucians have an amazing ability to combine sacred with secular. One can observe it in every celebration and fiesta that takes place in this little village. In the cities things are taken more seriously but here it is all about making a party out of whatever you have whether it’s chestnut harvest or a birthday or a religious occasion. Jolly people!
The outline of a picnic with Jesus takes place as follows:
The celebration takes place in early June and starts with a mass which usually includes a coro rocio, a female choir dressed in traje de gitana and originating in Rocio, the pilgrimage site in Huelva province that attracts larger and more flamboyant crowds every year.
The villagers then take the small icon, suitably adorned, from the church and process out of the village along the track that they call calvario because it doubles as the route of the stations of the cross at Easter.
Continuing into the countryside they get to the hill with a flat top called the mirador or the lookout place where all celebrations take place. The men and women of the village have already vied with each other to bag the best places for their family groups. They take up tables and chairs, barbecues and coolboxes full of tortilla and beer. And each spot is protected from the sun by an awning.
Jesus is plonked in the hedge and the party begins. Live music, dancing, feasting, drinking until the early hours when Jesus is returned home. Just like the pilgrims of yore, there might even be some story-telling going on.