Towns along the Costa del Sol, as in the rest of Andalucía and Spain, are gearing up for Carnival, the first major festival of the year after the Three Kings wind up Christmas. Traditionally celebrated in the week before Ash Wednesday, carnival is an opportunity to let off steam before the prohibitions of Lent.
Carnival events in Malagaare gaudy and ostentatious and the main purpose of the proceedings is to poke fun at the government, the church, or anyone currently in the news.
The preliminary rounds of the Concurso de Agrupaciones (satirical singing group contest) have been taking place since the middle of January, with the grand final in the Cervantes Theatre on Friday (today).
Tomorrow, Saturday, the carnival god and goddess will be chosen and the colourful parade takes place on Sunday. Celebrations continue in the Plaza de la Constitución and the surrounding streets throughout the week, while the hugely popular carnival drag queen contest will be held on 9 February.
Saturday 10 February sees the display of the “gods and goddesses” fantasy costumes from 6pm, and the Battle of the Flowers, a brightly coloured parade with confetti and streamers in Calle Larios at 7.30pm. The carnival ends on 11 February with the burning of the giant 'boquerón' on the Malagueta beach.
Torremolinos celebrates carnival later, between the 16 February and 9 March. The main parade will leave the Plaza La Nogalera at 7pm on Saturday 24 February and embark on a journey through the streets of the town.
The traditional burning of the sardine will take place on the beach in La Carihuela on 25 February. The Gran Gala de Carnaval will be staged in the Principe de Asturias auditorium on 9 March at 9pm.
Cártama Estación holds its carnival on 10 February. Along with street performances, there will be a competition with prizes for the most original costumes. The following Saturday carnival is celebrated in Cártama Pueblo, with a parade from the town hall at 5pm.
Carnival in Benalmádena is celebrated from 9 until 18 February. The Drag Queen contest in the Plaza Mezquita in Arroyo de la Miel at 9.30pm on Friday is full of glamour, with outrageous costumes, flamboyant wigs and teetering heels.
The ball will be held in the Plaza del Alguacil, Benalmádena Pueblo, at 6pm on Saturday 10, followed by the election of the carnival prince and princess in Plaza Mezquita at 1pm on 11 February.The grand parade through the streets of Arroyo de la Miel takes place on 17 February, followed by the burning of the lizard on the Santa Ana beach at 1.30pm on Sunday.
Carnival in Marbella starts this Sunday and continues until Saturday 17 February. Satirical musical groups will entertain in the streets throughout the week, while various competitions and performances will be held in the Teatro Ciudad de Marbella and the Palacio de Ferias. Marbella's extravagant carnival parade will leave the Parque de la Represa at 5.30pm on Saturday 17 February.
Carnival is celebrated in Vélez-Málaga on 2 and 3 February while Nerja will be partying from 8 until 11 February with parades, live music and dancing.
More information and programmes of events in other towns and villages can be found on town hall websites and Facebook.