Just as Christmas fades into a distant memory, festivities are springing to life again across the Costa del Sol and Malaga province as the carnival season swings into action.
Thousands of people, from excited schoolchildren to flamboyant drag queens, are putting the finishing touches to costumes and well-rehearsed acts for indoor and outdoor events in towns and villages everywhere.
As usual, the exact days of carnival celebrations will vary from place to place. This year most have spread their events around one or two of the first three weekends in February, a period coinciding broadly with the traditional start of fasting for Lent, which this year falls on 14 February.
In larger places, such as Malaga city, events are already well under way with the fierce competition between the 'agrupaciones' - carnival groups performing their satirical musical acts. This amateur contest began as far back as 19 January and finishes on 2 February. Some acts are touching and romantic, some are side-splittingly funny (unless the joke's on you) and some are deliciously wicked. What they all have in common are huge talent, great professionalism and amazing costumes to go with the music and lyrics.
Once the final is over at the city's Teatro Cervantes, the carnival fun moves to the street the next day until 11 February, with daily activities and performances for everyone. Don't miss the main carnival parade on 4 February from 5pm and the drag queen parade on 9 February at 9pm. And for those that can't get into Malaga city, there's a carnival atmosphere in store all over the Costa del Sol in the first half of February and no excuse for not joining in.