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Archive for January, 2019

12 Best Fiestas in Spain

As well as beautiful holiday destinations, rich culture and fascinating history, almost everyone knows Spain for its incredible fiesta culture. A whole variety of celebrations take place across the country all year round, meaning no matter what time of year you visit, there is more than likely a festival to take part in! Here we have listed some of the biggest and most popular Spanish fiestas throughout the year, to make your planning a little easier.

1) La Vijanera

Where? Silió, Molledo, Cantabria

When? The first Sunday of the year

This traditional festival was originally celebrated in a number of other areas in Cantabria, but today only the village of Silió has continued the traditions. With its origins in Roman traditions, this festival involves locals wearing lots of different masks, animal skins and brightly coloured clothes to play the roles of different symbolic characters in an open-air performance. It also includes a summary of the important events of the previous year called “Las Copas”, which are narrated sarcastically in verse. Finally, La Vijanera ends with the capture of the bear by “los zamarracos” (the star characters of the whole tradition), which is supposed to ward off bad spirits and bring in the new year with good energy. A more recent feature of the festival includes a photography competition, to find the best photos taken of the celebrations.

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the “zamarracos” in their costume

2) Jarramplas

Where? Piornal, Cáceres, Extremadura

When? 19th-20th January

The Jarramplas festival in Piornal involves a man dressed in a monster-like costume covered in colourful ribbons and a mask running around the streets while playing a drum. Meanwhile, local people bombard him with turnips. Jarramplas must for as long and as far as he can, and the festival only ends when he can’t take anymore. The origins of the festival are uncertain, however the eldery of Piornal often tell the story that Jarramplas was once a cattle thief, and villagers got their revenge by throwing vegetables at him. The most exciting moment of the festival is in the early hours between the 19th and 20th, when Jarramplas bangs his drum as the twelve strokes of midnight ring out and the shower of turnips is at its heaviest.

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Jarramplas being pelted with turnips

3) La Tamborrada

Where? San Sebastián, Basque Country

When? 20th January

San Sebastián’s most important festival, La Tamborrada begins at midnight on 20th January when crowds pack the Constitution Square, while the mayor raises the city’s flag to mark the start of 24 hours of non-stop drumming. During the festival more than 15,000 residents who form more than 100 bands actively take part. Not only is La Tamborrada the city’s largest party, it is also a symbol of what it means to be a Donostiarra (the name given to a person from San Sebastián) and a way for citizens to get together and celebrate their identity. This bizzare event dates back hundreds of years; when Napoleon’s army took over the city and French troops would march around banging their drums, when local women began to bang on their water buckets to mock them.

3 la tamborrada

bands gathered in Constitution Square

4) Carnival

Where? Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands

When? Late February, the week leading up to Lent

Although Carnival is generally celebrated nationwide, you will find the craziest parties in Tenerife’s capital; Santa Cruz. The Carnival celebrations held in Tenerife are potentially the biggest party in Europe, as they are very similar to those in the infamous Rio Carnival. The carnival is centred around pageants and contests – such as the crowning of the Carnival Queen – where girls in incredible sparkly costumes and feather headdresses take to the stage. Highlights of the Santa Cruz Carnival also include the Mogollones, (live street parties with Latin and salsa music) and the Grand Parade, full of extravagant floats and costumes.

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a Carnival Queen contestant in a magnficent dress

5) Las Fallas

Where? City of Valencia, Community of Valencia

When? 15th-19th March

Every year, the city of Valencia attracts thousands of visitors to celebrate the region’s largest festival, Las Fallas. The focus of the festival is the hundreds of giant paper-mache dolls called ninots (that have been carefully and beautifully created over months) which are placed around the city for people to admire. However, on the last day of Las Fallas, all of this hard work is undone as the ninots are set on fire! Attendees also have the chance to see the incredible firecracker displays which take place at 2pm at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento every day leading up to and during the festival, which create an amazing audio experience. Better yet, festival goers can also enjoy a variety of other activities such as bullfights, music, parades, paella contests, flower offerings, and beauty pageants around the city.

5 las fallas

a beautifully made ninot in Valencia

6) Wine Battle

Where? Haro, La Rioja

When? 29th June

Ever year on St. Peter’s Day, locals and visitors alike take part in the famous Wine Battle, just outside of the town of Haro (one of the most important wine-producing towns in Spain) in the Riscos de Bilibio hills. The unique event celebrates the saints of San Juan, San Felices and San Pedro. On the morning of the 29th everyone attends a Mass before heading to the hills, where the battle begins. To take part, you must arrive wearing all white with a red handkerchief around your neck, and the aim of the battle is to make sure everyone leaves drenched in the reddish-purple wine. A good idea is to bring a plastic container (like a jug or a bucket) with you so that you can collect some of the wine and take it home! The fight stops at noon, where the party continues back in Haro with street stalls, live music and dance.

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crowds during the winte battle

7) San Fermín

Where? Pamplona, Navarra

When? 6th-14th July

San Fermín is arguably one of Spain’s best-known festivals, as it is when the famous bull-running takes place! The festival kicks off at noon on the 6th of July with a firework display called el chupinazo. It is then followed by the bull-running (known as los encierros), where participants dress in all white with a red handkerchief tied around and are chased by the bulls through the streets of Pamplona. If you don’t fancy taking part in the running, it is also common for people to watch it take place from a balcony. Bullfights also take place every afternoon during the festival once los encierros have finished. However, this festival is not just all about the bulls, there are a variety of other activities organized by neighbourhoods, gastronomic clubs and sports clubs.  The meaning of the festival is to honour the city’s first bishop and patron saint, San Fermín.

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the bull running through the streets of Pamplona

8) La Tomatina

Where? Buñol, Community of Valencia

When? The last Wednesday of August

Often considered “the world’s biggest food fight”, up to 20,000 cram into the small town of Buñol to take part in La Tomatina, which involves participants throwing tonnes of tomatoes at each other. Before the fight officially starts there is also a challenge for one person to climb a greasy pole to try and reach the prized ham at the top. At 11am trucks deliver a huge amount of unripe tomatoes to the town, and then the beginning of the fight is signalled by the firing of water cannons. After exactly one hour of chaos, the chaos stops and the cleaning process begins. This crazy festival has been celebrated in Buñol every year since approximately 1945 in honour of the town’s patron saints, however nobody knows for sure the origins of the festival. There are many theories and old tales, from a local food fight among friends many years ago to once disgruntled townspeople attacking city councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration.

Spain Tomato Fight

people throwing tomatoes at each other

9) Feria de Abril

Where? Sevilla, Andalucía

When? 2 weeks after Holy Week

For one week during the spring, life in Sevilla totally revolves around the April Fair. More than a thousand “casetas” (tents) are set up in the fairground area which become the second home of locals and visitors, a place where people come together to have fun and party until the early hours of the morning. The fiesta officially begins with the illumination of the city’s breath-taking main gateway, made of thousands of multi-coloured bulbs. Throughout the fair traditional Andalusian dress is worn, with men wearing typical farmworker clothing and women beautiful flamenco or gypsy dresses. At this lively event you will find horse and carriage parades, the famous bullfight, flamenco dancing in the streets and plenty of food and wine. The festival then closes with a spectacular firework display on the last day. The fair originiated in 1847 as a cattle fair, but over time the festive atmosphere took over the business side and it is now the main event in Sevilla’s social calendar.

9 feria de abril

women in traditional Andalusian dress

10) El Colacho

When? Sunday after the Feast of Corpus Christi, mid-June

Where? Castrillo de Murcia, Burgos, Castilla y Leon

Once a year in the small town of Castrillo de Murcia, El Colacho (also known as the Baby Jumping festival) takes place. Recognised as one of the strangest ever festivals, babies born during the last year are laid on mattresses in the middle of the street. Then, in front of the excited crowd, a masked man dressed in red and yellow who represents the devil leap over the babies. Similar to a baptism, the ritual is believed to cleans the babies of sin and protect them from disease and misfortunate. Then, the babies are sprinkled with rose petals and return to their parents. The act dates back to the 1620s and is a blend of Catholic and Pagan rituals which is meant to represent triumph of good over evil. Traditionally it only included babies born in the town, but in recent year people from all over the world have come to have their child take part!

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man jumping over the babies during El Colacho

11) Festivals of the Moors and Christians

When? Usually late spring, 4th-6th May 2019

Where? Alcoy, Alicante, Community of Valencia

Every year, the Moorish occupation and Spanish re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula is celebrated throughout Southern Spain, however the most spectacular celebrations can be seen in the town of Alcoy. On the first day of the festival townsfolk take part in huge, colourful parades which weave through the streets. They spend a great deal of time putting their costumes together, with many people opting to dress as a Moor as their tribal dress is so colourful and exotic. Day two is St. George’s Day, where the religious aspects are remembered. The day ends with a beautiful firework display and the burning of some Valencian fallas. The most exciting part of the festival takes place on the last day, as there is a furious re-enactment battle. The two armies flood the streets for hours and depict the Moors seizing the castle, only for the Christians to later re-gain control and win the battle. The festival is based on true events which occurred over 700 years ago during a famous battle held in the city in 1276, between the Christian ruler and the Moorish captain Al Athrak.

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man dressed as a Moor on a horse

12) Ourense Carnivals

When? Lent/beginning of spring

Where? Ourense, Galicia

Some of the oldest and most unique and spectacular festivals (entroidos) in Galicia take place in the province of Ourense, in the towns of Xinzo de Limia, Verín and Laza. One of the highlights are the Peliqueiros, characters who take to the streets with song and dance dressed in bright costumes and elaborate masks. Each town has its own traditional characters and traditions, however Laza is one of the most unique. Here residents will take part in a flour battle, as well as throwing ants which have been covered in vinegar (to make them angry and bite) at each other! The festivals also have a large focus on food and drink, so make sure to try some typical Galician gastronomy while you’re there. The origins of the Carnival are linked to celebrations marking the arrival of spring.

12 orense carnivals

the Peliqueiros running through the street

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to follow the Across Spain Travel Chronicles blog for more posts about Spain’s most beautiful locations and rich culture. Also, don’t hesitate to contact us to find out more about our 2019 Festival Packages.

map updated

map locating all of the festivals

 

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