Every year in May the city of Funchal on the island of Madeira comes alive with flowers as its residents celebrate the joys of spring with an annual festival. Planning a holiday to coincide with the event is a great idea as the abundance of blooms only serves to make the destination even more beautiful.
This year’s festival is due to take place from May 9th to 15th with the highlight being the Flower Parade on the Sunday, which sees thousands of people taking part. Travelling through the streets of Funchal, floats are covered with flowers in every colour imaginable.
Participants dress up in costumes made to emulate the natural beauty of the blooms, with some even incorporating living flowers into the design. A children’s parade is held on the Saturday with the younger inhabitants of the islands decorating themselves in a similar manner.
Their parade ends at the Town Hall Square, where each child places a flower on the Wall of Hope in a symbolic gesture calling for world peace. Once all of the children have carried out this ritual a flock of pigeons are released and a show is put on.
Flowers grow particularly well on Madeira due to the mild climate, which is never too hot or too cold. It means that several rare varieties can be found and during spring and summer the island is covered in seas of immense colour. If you miss the flower festival there are still opportunities to enjoy the blooms where they grow in the wild.
Locals flock to the flower market on Avenida Arriaga and purchase masses of blooms to create sculptures out of flowers in the streets. There are also carpets of flowers laid out right up until the end of the festival, creating stunning blocks of colour.
As well as all the flowers, the celebrations are also punctuated with traditional music and dance performances all over the city. This time of year really is one where Madeira makes the most of its natural and cultural features.
Everyone in Funchal gets involved with the festival and local competition becomes fierce as prizes are awarded for the best costumes and prettiest shop windows. This means that designs get more and more elaborate each year, with planning starting months in advance of the event.
Wandering around the city looking at all the different elements of the festival is a great way to explore Funchal and head to little places you may not have otherwise found – just follow your nose and seek out the sweet perfume of flowers. Although centred around the main parts of the city, certain buildings and public spaces are given a greater emphasis during the event and it is good to see them come to life.
The origins of the flower festival date back to 1954 when an event called the Rose Cotillion was held, involving an exhibition and flower competition. It was so successful that it was decided a similar festival should be hosted every year in Funchal. The name was changed and over the years a number of features have been added, such as the parade and the Wall of Hope.
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