Time for a little Spanish Festival…
Holidays and parties are always a favourite during the year. From Christmas to Easter to your own birthday. Today I thought I would tell you a little something about the different festivals and holidays in Spain. Bear in mind that I have not actually participated in all of these festivals and celebrations but I have done my research! For those of my readers living in New Zealand you may notice that we don’t really have many festivals and celebrations that happen in comparison to Spain. So try not to be too overwhelmed by the sheer amazingness of all this small portion of festivals, holidays and celebrations that go on in Spain.
(Now I am not going to go in your typical alphabetical order because today, the 12th of October, just so happens to be one of a national holiday in Spain. So of course I thought I would mention it first. This celebration was just recently brought to my attention by one of my friends in Spain.)
The Fiesta Nacional de España is the national day of Spain. It is held annually on October 12 and is a national holiday. It commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘s first arrival in the Americas, a day also celebrated in other countries. The anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the New World on October 12, 1492, is widely celebrated throughout the Americas; it is known as Columbus Day in the United States and as Día de la Raza in various Latin American countries. Celebration of the anniversary in Spain dates to 1935, when the first festival was held in Madrid. The day was known as Dia de la Hispanidad, emphasizing Spain’s connection to the Hispanidad, the international Hispanic community. On November 27, 1981, a royal decree established Día de la Hispanidad as a national holiday.
However, on October 7, 1987, the name was changed to Fiesta Nacional, and October 12 became one of two national celebrations, along with Constitution Day on December 6. Since 2000, October 12 has also been Spain’s Day of the Armed Forces, celebrated each year with a military parade in Madrid. To commemorate it, there is a parade led by the military (usually held in Madrid) and presided over by the Spanish king, who is the head of state, since Spain is politically organized as a constitutional monarchy. The prime minister of Spain (Presidente del Gobierno) has also a special role in the ceremony, only second to that of the king.
Other than this, however, the holiday is not widely or enthusiastically celebrated in Spain; there are no other large-scale patriotic parades, marches, or other events, and the observation is generally overshadowed by the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar. (Wikipedia)
Christmas and New Year (DECEMBER/JANUARY) (pic from BBC UK)
Look out for a separate post on Christmas and the New Year in Spain, later this year.
Tamborrada (19/20 JANUARY)
If you are ever visiting San Sebastian around this time in January make sure you head along to Tamborrada, which is without a doubt the noisiest festival held in Spain. Tamborrada is a drum festival with a mass participation. The huge parade takes place on the streets where they bash their drums throughout the night and into the following day. Here are both organised processions as well as some that are free-for all to participate in.
The Spanish Carnaval (not to be confused with the Carnival in Rio) takes place in the days leading up to Lent. Carnival is particularly famous in Tenerife and Cadiz, though it also has a strong tradition in the gay district of Chueca in Madrid and in Sitges, near Barcelona. Ciudad Rodrigo, near Salamanca, also has a popular carnival, though it is quite unlike that seen in other cities. The Carnival in Spain varies in nature across the country but in Tenerife and (to a lesser extent in Cadiz) is second only to Rio de Janeiro in terms of extravagance.
Las Fallas (14-18 MARCH)
Las Fallas is a five-day event leading up to Saint Joseph’s Day (19 March). It takes place in Valencia, on the Costa Blanca. Now to get a picture of what Las Fallas is, imagine a bonfire from Guy Fawkes Night and multiply it by a hundred: that is Las Fallas.
Each neighbourhood traditionally gets together to build giant puppets which they set fire to later. There is usually a satirical nature to these puppets, though not always. Not all the puppets get burned. There is a public vote to decide on the very best puppets for this year. These are taken to the Museo Fallero, Valencia’s Fallas museum. The burning of these puppets is of course accompanied with plenty of street parties throughout the city.
Semana Santa Easter (MARCH/APRIL)
Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Though Seville and Malaga are the most famous cities for Semana Santa, the Castilla-Leon cities of Valladolid and Leon are also important. Santa is the Spanish name for Easter. Members of local parishes carry ornate decorated floats depicting the Passion of Christ into the city cathedral. Semana Santa is a week of feasting and Roman Catholic processions leading up to Easter. Holy Week in Seville features masked parades and enormous floats with Roman Catholic figures.
Feria de Sevilla (2 weeks after Easter APRIL)
Taking place, normally, about two weeks after Semana Santa, is la Feria de Sevilla (Obviously in Seville). It runs from midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning and finishes on the following Sunday night/Monday morning. After all the piety of Easter (even if this piety is done in Seville’s usual extravagant style), the Feria de Sevilla is that holiday everyone needs to get over the previous one!
The Feria de Sevilla is a microcosm of everything Andalusia is famous for: flamenco, bullfighting, horses and sherry. Local well-to-do families spend a lot of money on renting marquees (casetas in Spanish) for their friends and families to enjoy their party.
The marquees vary greatly; some are open to the public, many are not. Political groups (especially left-wing parties) sell and give away propaganda, while other marquees are famous for other more alcohol-based reasons!
The Feria de Sevilla has something for everyone – rides and animals for the children, music, dancing and copious amounts for the adults and bullfighting for those interested in this particular aspect of Spanish culture. The partying goes on virtually 24 hours a day, with horse parades and traditional music during the day and hedonistic partying at night.
San Fermin – The Running of the Bulls (JULY)
The San Fermin Festival, where the Pamplona Bull Run takes place, runs for one week in early July in the city of Pamplona, capital of the Navarra region, near the Basque Country (north Spain). The Pamplona Bull Run is a week-long bull running and bullfighting festival. Every morning at 8am, the city’s brave and the world’s foolhardy run ahead of a group of angry bulls. The rest of us look on in amazement. If you are keen to take part make sure you are wearing your red and white clothing.
This festival is one that I and my parents are always asked about when we say we used to live in Spain. “Have you been to the Running of the Bulls (and/or or have you seen a bullfight)?” The answer for me is “No” as I was too young at the time to go (also in regards to the bull fight “Heck no!”). However my parents were in Pamplona on one occasion and the bulls ran right past the flats they were staying in. To be honest I think it is a rather bizarre tradition as who would really want to be intentionally running in front of something that could kill them.
Semana Grande (3rd WEEK OF AUGUST)
La Semana Grande (Big Week) takes place in the third week of August in Bilbao (Basque country). A big attraction of Semana Grande is the large number of concerts, from rock to pop and classical to jazz. Each night there is an important international firework competition, while you should also catch the now-famous strong man competition. Another iconic sight at the event is the giant puppets, which I myself have seen when I was younger, (re:Photo above) and an Ugly Competition. Like all other Spanish Festivals you are sure to find some delicious food and drink around and maybe a bit of bullfighting.
La Tomatina – (4th WEDNESDAY OF AUGUST)
Get ready to have your clothes ripped and stained in this festival. The Tomatina Tomato Fight takes place on the fourth Wednesday in August. The battle happens in the small town of Buñol, an hour outside Valencia. The Tomatina Tomato Fight is probably the world’s biggest food fight. Thousands of people gather in the streets of the tiny town of Buñol to fling tomatoes at each other. The origins of the festival are unknown and, to most people who like throwing food at each other, largely unimportant. To fit right in make sure you are wearing white clothes and a good throwing arm to fling tomatoes.
If you want a full list of the main Hispanic Festivals, celebrations and holidays check out the post on The Oxford Language Dictionary.
Well I hope that you have learnt a wee bit about some of the most popular Spanish Festivals. Let me know if you didn’t already know about any of these celebrations in the comments below and if you want me to explain a bit more don’t be shy to ask!
More Posts from Spanish Month:
Post 1: About Spain
Post 3: 14 Awesome Hispanic Based Movies