JANUARY: Cabalgata de Reyes
Otherwise known as the parade of the Three Wise Men, this festival celebrating the birth of Jesus takes place on the eve of 5 January. Throughout the streets of the cities and villages of Spain, floats adorned with the themes and colours of Christmas, Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men will be exhibited in parades.
As Christmas presents in Spain are traditionally handed out on 5 January instead of 25 December, the festival also helps to set the mood for presents and celebrates the end of the Christmas period.
The Three Wise Men featured in the parade are usually on chariots loaded with presents, reminding children of their much desired presents waiting for them back at home. The presents at the parade are donations that go to children at hospitals or are for disadvantaged families.
The most impressive parade takes place in Madrid. It starts at Nuevos Ministerios and finishes at Cibeles at around 21:00. Also catch the Cortylandia, a famous show of puppets and giant toys that amaze children and adults alike while they sing the same song every year in front of the largest chain of super-stores El Corte Inglés at Princesa street.
Carnival in TenerifeFEBRUARY: Carnival in Tenerife
This is a unique outdoor dancing festival that held the 1987 Guinness Book of world records as having the largest number of people – 200,000 – dancing outdoors at the same time.
At the festival, you will see people from all over the world get together to dance.
Held in Santa Cruz, this masquerade festival never fails to amaze; the bright and colourful carriages, the combination of unique ideas and astonishing designs that is created especially for the theme of the year. The yearly theme for the festival varies from fairy tales, pirates to horror movies.
The dates for the festival vary according to the lent period. Events start the week before Ash Wednesday and end the following Sunday. People joining would normally wear fancy costumes and would cover part or all their faces.
A not-to-be missed celebration is the 'Burial of the Sardine' on Ash Wednesday night. The event consists of a giant sardine made of combustive material that is paraded in a funeral march and mourned by widows, popes, bishops and nuns -all a mock to the church. At the end of the march the sardine is burned into pyrotechnic works.
Fallas 2009 in Valencia MARCH: Las Fallas
Taking place in Valencia, this infamous loud festival is celebrated to honour Saint Joseph and usually takes place from 15 to 19 March.
The major draw is the ninnots
, giant wood and papier-mâché sculptures that are built throughout the year. The fallas are constructed by groups or neighbourhood according to thetheme for the year. Normally they depict a satirical scenemaking reference to politics or other issues that have made the news recently and could cost up toUR 1 million.
There are well over 500 such floats in the city alone, and all but one will be
burnt down at midnight on 19 March during the festival's climactic and cathartic La Cremá (The Burning).APRIL: La Diada de Sant Jordi
Otherwise known as Catalan Valentine’s Day, this event is celebrated in
Catalonya to honour San Jordi (the Catalan name of Saint George) and takes place
on 23 April.
It commemorates the death of San Jordi who was most famous for slaying a dragon
to rescue a princess. Legend has it that there was a dragon in Montblanc that
killed the inhabitants of the city. In order to prevent more killings, a victim
was chosen from the villagers on a daily basis. The princess was eventually
picked but was saved in the nick of time by San Jordi. The dragon’s blood was
then transformed into a rose and it is for that men offer women a rose and women
offer a book in return for the gift.
Nowadays Las Ramblas in Barcelona is filled with book and rose stands where you
can choose either gift. Some bookshops may also give you a rose when you
purchase a book.
This day is also now used by Catalans to publicly display their
patriotism by hanging flags from the fasçades and eat special cakes or pastries
featuring the Catalonian flag. In addition, through the day at the Plaza de San Juan groups of locals gather to dance sardanas
, the dance from Catalonya.
El hombre y la mujer at the Horse fair in Jerez de la Frontera MAY: Horse fair in Jerez de la Frontera
This unique festival takes place in Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz, and honours the
city’s ancient deep-rooted equestrian tradition.
During the medieval ages, horse trading was traditionally celebrated with
drinking sherry. The event lasts for seven days and the dates vary according to
the Holy Week.
During the horse fair week, horses are displayed throughout the streets and sold
as in ancient ages. The city is filled with Casetas, restaurant-like spaces that
offer food. As part of the celebrations, the Casetas compete for the best tapas. Casetas-owners promote their restaurants and bars this way and the award serves as a label for reputation for the year.
It is also tradition for women to dress in a typical gitana
dress and men to
don their special riding horse outfit.
Special considerations are that retired people are offered better prices at the
Casetas and that Wednesday is women's day, which means preferential treatment on the day, discounted prices or even free drinks.
The festival also involves bullfights and a designated area for a funfair at the
Calle del Infierno.
The event takes place a week after the famous Romería del Rocío which is an opportunity to see people dressed in the local costumes parading the newly acquired horses.
Castrillo de Murcia : Corpus Christi, "El Colacho", Cofradía de Minerva, leaving the church at the beginning of the processionJUNE: Baby Jumping
On the week of Corpus Christi at the village of Castrillo de Murcia in Sasamón, Bugos, be prepared to be astonished by this shocking festival.
The Colacho, a man acting as devil’s representation, has to free newborns from all evil by jumping over them. Groups of four to six newborns are placed on mattresses every few yards as cheering mothers asked the Colacho to jump several times over their babies to ward off all evil and bless their children for lifetime.
Upon the end of the ceremony, unwed women of the village will race to lift the babies off the ground and hand them back to their mothers as they believe this will help them get married within the next year.
Throughout the day, you will hear children shouting at and mocking the Colacho who is running wild on the streets and hitting a terranuela, a nut-shaped object to attract attention. JULY – San Fermín
Pamplona honours San Fermín from 6 to 14 July and celebrates the much known Sanfermines. The festivities got greater attention after Ernest Hemingway described the festival in his book The sun also rises
El Chupinazo is the pyrotechnic show that kicks-start the festivities.
But what has made the festival truly famous is the encierro
, a bull-people running of about 850 metres that finishes at the bullring. The three-minute blood-pumping run is considered dangerous and anyone can take part in it. Although it is recommended that participants have to be fit enough, there is no age limit imposed on the runners.
The run is also participated by families of three generations, with the oldest showing they are fit enough to run with the bulls and the youngest exhibiting their bravery to be part of the excitement.
On the last day of the celebrations, people embrace to sing Pobre de mi
as they bid farewell to the celebrations.
strong>AUGUST – La Tomatina
Be rendered speechless with the tomato fight in Buñol on the last Wednesday of August. The much-awaited locally and internationally festival honours Saint Louis Bertrand and originated in 1944 when a group of young people started fighting with tomatoes.
The festival was banned during the Spanish regime during the 50s but was soon restored due to popular demand and is now an annual event.
Preparations for the battle are an important aspect of the festival. A ham is put at the top of a greased pole and candidates from the village have to compete in a collaborative effort to climb to the top and loosen the ham. The instant the ham hits the ground, a bell rings and the tomato fight starts. After 60 minutes, a second bell rings to dictate the end of a fight.
Due to critics on the huge expenditure on 125 tonnes of tomatoes, the government now orders special batches of very poor quality tomatoes and come from Extremadura where they are cheapest.
Carthaginian soldiers preparing for the final battle against the Romans at Zama - a scene from the classic film "Scipio Africanus" by film director Carmine Gallone - 1937 SEPTEMBER – Cartaginenses y Romanos
From 14 to 23 September at Cartagena, Murcians commemorate the battles the village went through in the second century before Christ.
During the festival, all villagers don their robes to act in a play depicting the ancient war times of Carthago and Roma. Locals commemorate the war by acting scenes such as a wedding from those ages, a day at the circus, battles or a day in the Senate sessions.
During the festival, the entire village is transformed into a town from the Roman era as fire torches replace light bulbs and everyone parties in traditional robes at night.
The festival was introduced in 1989 because the city was lacking local and international attention. In order to improve the situation, the city council gathered a committee that researched into events that had happened in the village’s history and came up with this idea that would involve all inhabitants.
Cartaginenses y Romanos has since gained more attention over the years and has finally been categorised as a celebration of 'national tourist interest' after 20 years.OCTOBER – Santa Pilar de Zaragoza
The festivities for Saint Pilar begin on the week of 12 October and commemorate the apparition of Virgin Mary to Saint James standing on a pillar.
The religious events start with a mass, Missa solemnis, on 11 October midnight at the Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar.
There are dedicated days as to when the pious can make offerings to the virgin.
On 12 October, people approach the central square to offer flowers to the Virgin which is then placed at the top of a pyramidal structure design to hold the offerings.
On 13 October, people can offer fruit baskets which are placed underneath the statute of the Virgin.
Look out for the glass floats organised for this event as they are characteristic to the city. The faroles
parading through the main streets of the city represent the 15 mysteries of the rosary.
The festivities also include non-religious celebrations such as bull fights, music festival, beer festival and pyrotechnics fires at night.
Semana Santa de Zaragoza: the arrival in Plaza PilarNOVEMBER – Todos los Santos
The solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on 1 November at local cemeteries in Spain and marks a day of mass, flowers, contemplation and praying
Catholics families living apart would get together to honour or mourn for their loved ones.
Flowers are a must-have offering and are used to cover the beautifully-decorated tombs completely.
If you are driving or walking by a cemetery on that day, try not to laugh or talk too loudly lest you disturb those visiting their departed loved ones.
All Saints is also the day of the year when more flowers are sold. Prices of flowers are jacked up and it is therefore recommended that you buy them early in the day.
Celebrating S. Lucía in Santa Lucía de TirajanaDECEMBER – Santa Lucía de Tirajana
In the village of Tirajana in Canary Islands, celebrations to honour Saint Lucy take place on 13 December. Saint Lucy, symbolised by the Virgin holding a candle, is believed to be the saint that looks after the sewing women and the blind.
This day also marks the day when people traditionally start preparing for Christmas. It used to be that decorations such as Nativity scene in shops, streets and houses were only put up on 13 December.
During the week Santa Lucía de Tirajana , the village holds a romería
(pilgrimage) which the Virgin parades to the main square and back to its sanctuary. From sunrise inhabitants will dress in the local costumes and accompany the Virgin along with marching bands. To express their joy in escorting the Virgin, villagers drink wine and eat ‘gofio’, toasted corn and wheat flour with honey and almonds, to celebrate.
Once Saint Lucy is returned to the chapel, a big party starts in the main square to mark the end of the pilgrimage. Merrymakers dance throughout the night and daybreak is celebrated drinking chocolate and ‘churros’, fried-dough pastries.
3 November 2009
Daura Carballo / Expatica
Photos credit: Dominic's pics