Many of the fiestas we see today in
Spain have their origins rooted in pagan and pre-catholic customs which
were re-invented by the Christians during the last two millennia. Some
popular fiestas were suppressed under the forever paranoid Franco and
since his death in 1975 there has been a rediscovery of the popular
fiestas in Spain. The Spanish have literally thousands of fiestas each
year from the small and obscure local celebrations to the internationally
renown. All aspects of Spanish culture are celebrated through the fiesta
and they reflect the respectful, austere, fun loving and sometimes just
plain crazy sides of the Spanish character. Here we give a quick rundown
of some of the more famous and universal fiestas listed chronologically.
Reyes - Feast of the Three Kings. In Spain, children receive their Christmas gifts not from Santa Claus but from the Three Kings. On the previous day there are parades in most towns depicting the arrival of the three gift bearers. A nice day for the children who gather up handfuls of sweets thrown to the crowds from the floats.
Carnival. This pre-Lent festivity, with obvious pagan roots, was banned under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in the early 20th century and later under Franco for its raucousness and lascivious nature. Now reinstated, it is celebrated all over Spain. The most famous are those held in Cádiz in southern Spain, and on the Canary Islands.
Fallas de Valencia. One of the most well known Fiestas. Elaborate tableaux of papier mache and wood, some of which take months and cost thousands of Euro to build, go up in flames on the Night of Fire in Valencia, on March 19, the feast day of Saint Joseph.
Semana Santa - Easter. Spain is famous for its Holy Week processions, which take place between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday. The more elaborate ones involve enormous, heavily ornamented floats with the images of Christ or the Virgin Mary, often carried on the shoulders of men, in processions which can last many hours, escorted by hundreds of penitents often wearing (in the north of Spain) the familiar hooded costumes.
Seville Feria. The most famous example of an Andalusian "feria", combining promenades of horsemen, bullfights, open air "casetas" where fiesta-goers in colorful flamenco garb congregate to eat, drink and dance. The fair lasts a week and usually takes place two weeks after Easter.
Madrid San Isidro. On May 15th there is the Fiesta de San Isidro to the honour of Madrid's patron, one of the most spectacular fiestas in all the year with numerous concerts and other kinds of public performances in the center of the city.
Jerez Horse Fair. A typical Andalusian fiesta with the accent on horses, which are an important feature of the Sherry-making town of Jerez. There are displays of horsemanship, bullfights, flamenco. The fiesta takes place in mid-May.
Romeria del Rocío. The biggest religious pilgrimage in Spain congregates some one million people for three days at Whitsuntide (May or June) around the Shrine of popularly called "La Blanca Paloma", at the edge of the marshes in the Doñana National Park in southern Spain. Many pilgrims travel by horse or in ox-drawn carriages from various points in Andalusia. Very Colorful dresses and dancing along the way.
Moors and Christians. In spring and summer, mock battles of "Los Moros y Cristianos", featuring cthe local folk in period costume plus lots of noise and fireworks, take place in many coastal towns of eastern Spain.
San Juan. - Summer Solstice June 24th. Fires are lit all over Spain. These fiestas - Spain, find their expression with fire and light. Most towns and villages will celebrate with fire in one way or another. Often with tourch carrying or fire jumping.
San Fermínes. The most famous aspect of the Fiestas of Pamplona (July 6-14),is immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises (Fiesta), is the daily running of the bulls through the streets of the city. This must rank as one of the best parties in Europe and although the bull running is the most famous aspect of the festival, the run only lasts for four minutes at eight o'clock in the morning. The real fun is had with the people and the good humored partying that goes on for days fueled in grand part by the local beverage Patcharán.
Wine Battle, in which participants douse each other with red wine. Procession of Coffins. In Santa Marta de Ribarteme (Pontevedra) those who have survived some life-threatening illness participate in a procession on July 29 in which they ride in the coffins they would have occupied had they been less lucky.
Tomatina. On the last Wednesday in August the town of Bunyol in Valencia stages a messy Tomato Battle in which thousands of pounds of ripe tomatoes serve as artillery for the fiesta-goers. The whole event lasts an hour or so after which the whole town and the party revelers are water cannoned clean by the town council.
All Fool's Day. December 28 (the Feast of the Innocent, marking the day Herod had the infants of Nazareth slaughtered) is Spain's equivalent of April Fool's Day, observed with pranks and practical jokes. In some towns, it is the excuse for a fiesta. In Ibi (Alicante) locals battle each other with flour. In Velez-Rubio (Almería), a citizen is appointed mayor for the day and has anyone who shows up in the town square arrested and taken off to the local lock-up.
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