There's always an excuse to party in Spain and the residents in most of the cities, towns and villages throughout the country find the right excuse to have a fiesta at least a dozen times a year.
Moors and Christians, Fallas, Labour Day and the endless list of Saint's days are all celebrated every year.
However, in some areas tradition dictates that the festivities are only allowed every so often. This is the case with a remarkable place called Moya that I discovered last year in the province of Cuenca where they only get to celebrate once every seven years.
To give a brief outline of the place first - Moya is not a village, town or city but a whole area that takes up around one fifth of the whole province of Cuenca and includes 36 villages and towns.
The history of Moya begins during the time the Moslems were in Spain. The area was one of their first Iberian conquests and they decided to build a ‘capital’ town on a prominent hill overlooking the rich countryside and name it Moya.
Peace reigned from the 8th century until Alfonso VIII conquered the lands to secure the boundaries between the kingdoms of Aragón and Valencia in 1183.
This was the beginning of many conflicts that were to take place before the people of Moya were actually allowed to buy their freedom and rights in 1391.
However, the skirmishes continued until the ‘Catholic Kings’ intervened; Moya had always been loyal to the crown and church. So much so, that no less than six fabulous churches and two monasteries were built in this small yet important city.
By the end of the 16th century Moya and its associated lands had a population of some 13,000, which increased to 15,000 at the height of its glory. No mean feat for those far off days.
So, back to the fiestas and the reason they are not held every year. Like all good celebrations, there is a story behind it...
Once upon a time (well in 1639) the region of Moya suffered a terrible drought that threatened to ruin all the crops. The townsfolk gathered together and suggested various ways of getting out of these difficulties, but at the end of the day the only solution was rainfall.
The answer to the problem was obvious - but who could organise the right amount of rain to save the crops? For this extremely religious community, prayers were the only answer.
Although there were six churches and two convents in Moya at that time, the citizens decided to appeal to the convent of Garaballa and ask if they could borrow the image of Santa María de Tejeda. The people of Moya were looking for a miracle and the fact that they were allowed to take the image of Sta. Texeda to Moya was a small miracle in itself.
A group of the town's elite set off at dawn on the morning of June 7, 1639 to walk the 15-kilometre journey to the Convent of Garaballa in order to collect the image of Santa Maria de Tejeda and bring her back to Moya.
The image was then housed in one of the convents and the whole town took turns in continually praying to her for rain. On the eighth day the devout townsfolk were rewarded by a gentle rainfall that lasted for seven hours non-stop.
Following this ‘miracle’ the town council declared that from then on each June 7 would be dedicated to the worship of Santa María de Tejeda and that the image would be brought back to Moya every seven years.
This holiday is called the Septenario and over the centuries the dates it is celebrated have changed... nowadays it is held during September.
The walled town is now practically in ruins but some of the buildings have been restored and the various styles of architecture when additions were made over the years are fairly easy to identify.
Keeping to the theme of ‘seven’ the fiestas are held for one week with religious services, open-air dancing, a medieval market and other activities.
I put my head in the church to see what was going on, thinking that this would be a very solemn occasion, but I was surprised to see the priest with a microphone urging the congregation to join in a very up-beat rendition of a hymn played by guitarists and saxophonists.
The open-air dancing featured at least one live band every evening and continued all through the night, everyone being fed and watered by the various bar/restaurants that had set up stalls in the area.
The medieval market was also an interesting sight with stall holders dressed in costume and a ‘leper’ wandering among the crowds.
Although this is a great time to visit Moya it is probably best seen when the fiestas are not on as then you can form a better image of how the town was in its heyday and take a walk back in time.