On the night of the 13th of August, Elche celebrates la Nit de l’Albà, one of the most anticipated and exciting nights in the Elche cultural calendar.

On that night, thousands of fireworks illuminate the night sky in a highly characteristic festival of the city and has its origin in the Middle Ages, where families used to make offerings to the Virgin by way of a rocket launched for each of their respective children.

These days, that tradition is recognised by the setting off of hundreds of palm forms that are launched in a coordinated and alternating way from different points of the city.

The rockets and the fireworks take place at about 11:00 p.m. for about an hour of noisy excitement, ending barely minutes before the clock strikes midnight. At that moment, the fireworks cease and the lights of the city are turned off and the people of Elche wait in silence for the culminating moment of the night, while in the background we can hear the most significant fragment of the Misteri d’Elx: “the Gloria Patri”. Amidst the utter darkness of the night, we see the palm of the Virgin, a huge palm represented by white light which is launched from the Basilica of Santa María, and which for some seconds, lights up the skies, above the city of Elche magnificently.

After this magic moment, the lights come back on and in the tower of the Basilica, a small “virgin of fire” appears as we listen to the famous habanera “Aromas ilicitanos” and the locals join in and sing it from their terraces and balconies. To conclude, there is a tradition of celebrating the end by eating watermelon.

Some locals will continue to set off fireworks well into the night. Other locals, the most daring, will participate in the traditional “guerra de carretillas”, a mock fight with firecrackers in a place in the town centre specially fenced for it, only for those who are passionate about fire.

This is certainly one of the most exciting events of the summer calendar, and well worth seeing at least once in your life. If you can´t go this year, make sure you add it to your “Bucket List” and you will be honoured to take part in this historic, yet strangely modern-feeling phenomenon.

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