San Sebastian Day

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Locals of San Sebastian honour their patron saint by playing drums and barrels from 19 to 20 January.

SAN SEBASTIAN – It’s time for the deafening annual La Tamborrada as the sleepy resort town of San Sebastian comes alive with the thousands of people beating drums, all day and all night.

On the midnight of 19 January till the midnight of 20 January, uniformed bands march through the streets of San Sebastian playing drums and barrels in honour of Saint Sebastian.

As with many Spanish traditions, the origin of La Tamborrada is unclear.

Some believe the celebration started back in 1720 when a singing baker filling water barrels from a fountain was joined by a group of young girls passing by. The girls started banging on the barrels as accompaniment and this later evolved into the celebrations of today.

Others say that this custom stemmed from Spanish tradesmen who mocked the French army during the Napoleonic wars, by mimicking their daily procession from Monte Urgull to San Telmo.

Adults usually have dinner in sociedades gastronómicas (gourmet clubs) which provide elements of the procession while children dress traditionally as soldiers and march around the city.

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