Did you know that Sanfermines, commonly known as the Running of the Bulls, is not the only festival Spaniards celebrate? In fact, Spanish festivals are celebrated all year around and the list is almost endless.
Spain is a country with a lot of history and traditions and its festivals are proof of this.
Are you interested in learning about the most popular festivals in Spain? Then, keep reading and find here the 10 most popular.
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What are the 10 most popular Spanish festivals?
CÓRDOBA PATIOS FESTIVAL
Córdoba Patios Festival is a contest where different courtyards (patios) compete to become the most beautiful courtyard in the city.
A courtyard is an area of the house adapted to the hot climate of Córdoba which dates from the periods of the Romans and later the Moors. It provides ventilation, lighting and a place for the family to spend time together. It often has a fountain and a well in the middle.
The contest was first held in 1921, but it was not until 1933 when the competition became popular.
During the festival, participants decorate their courtyards with flowers, which are planted in beds and pots. In addition, people are welcome to enter the participants’ houses and enjoy their patios.
The festival starts at the beginning of May and lasts two weeks. UNESCO declared it as a Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012.
SPANISH CHRISTMAS FESTIVALS
Spanish Christmas season is like no other. It is long, full of joy, celebrations and food, a lot of good food!
Christmas season in Spain starts on December 24 (Nochebuena) and ends on January 6 (the day of Reyes Magos or Three Wise Men’s day). During this time, most Spaniards have some days off from work and enjoy their time with their families and friends.
The most important day is Nochebuena, when families get together for a big dinner. Then, families meet again on Navidad (Christmas day) and have a big lunch together.
Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) and Año Nuevo (the first of January) are also important dates. In Nochevieja, Spaniards spend their time with their families or friends to have dinner. Then, they eat 12 grapes for each chime of the clock at midnight. After dinner, it is common to go party. The next day it is usually a time to be with the family.
Finally, the 6th is the day of Reyes Magos and it is the day most of the children in Spain receive their presents. However, it is also common for children in some parts of Spain to receive them on the 24th or the 25th.
With respect to food, Spaniards eat big meals and usually prepare very traditional foods during these holidays. Some of the most popular desserts are: turrón (nougat), polvorones (a type of shortbread), mazapán (marzipan) and Roscón de Reyes (Three King’s cake).
Holy week or Semana Santa is one of the most important Spanish religious festivals, where processions are the main attraction almost everywhere.
The beginning of Holy week is Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) that remembers the entry of Jesus Crist to Jerusalem. People go to church with palm branches for priests to bless them.
Then, Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles.
The next day is Viernes Santo (Good Friday) that remembers the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. Catholics fast and don’t eat meat as a penance.
Domingo de Resurrección or Pascua (Resurrection Sunday or Easter) honors the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This usually marks the end of Holy week.
Also, in places like Catalonia, people celebrate Lunes de Pascua (Easter Monday), which represents their end of Holy Week. People eat La Mona de Pascua (Easter Mona), which is a cake that normally contains a hard boiled or chocolate egg. However, it is also common for bakers to make chocolate figurines of popular celebrities or cartoon characters.
Las hermandades (fraternities) and cofradías (botherhoods) organize the processions, which represent a moment from the Bible. One of the most well known members of these groups are the nazarenos, who dress in their distinctive capirote (conical headwear). To many foreigners, they appear like they are a part of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. However, they are completely unrelated. One common feature of the processions are the pasos (floats) that contain sculptures of Jesus or the Virgin that usually men, known as costaleros, from hermandades and cofradías carry in the streets.
Besides La Mona de Pascua, people also eat torrijas during Holy Week. This is a traditional dessert that consists of bread soaked in milk, which is dipped in beaten egg and fried with olive oil.
Along with Sanfermines, Las Fallas is one of the most well-known Spanish festivals. It is a festival full of fire, pyrotechnics and traditions that takes place in Valencia during March.
The most common believe is that carpenters started this festival. They would burn old wood materials in bonfires that they didn´t need on Saint Joseph Eve (March 19th), the patron saint of carpenters, which also coincides with the arrival of Spring. Over time the bonfires evolved to structures with a human-looking aspect and became the fallas that we know in the modern times, which are satirical and social critic statues.
The festival starts on the 1st of March and ends the 19th. However, the main events are from the 15th to 19th of March.
Every day of Fallas starts with the despertà, where some falleros march down every street making noises to wake up the neighbors.
Also, each day there are mascletàs (firecracker barrages) at different parts of the city, including the main one at the City Hall’s square.
The 15th is the moment of the plantà, when all fallas must be fully finished because the 16th the judges award the best ones. Then, the 17th is the award-giving.
Between the 17th and 18th the ofrenda de flores (flower offering) takes place, where people offer flowers to the Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken), patron saint of Valencia.
In addition, from the 15th to the 19th there are fireworks every night. The 19th being the Nit del Foc (La Noche del Fuego), which is the last night and the most important.
Also, the 19th all fallas are set on fire (the cremá).
Las Fallas festival was declared a Tourist Festival of International Interest in 1980 and added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list in 2016.
FERIA DE ABRIL
Feria de abril or Seville’s April Fair is a joyful festival full of traditional music and dances such as flamenco and sevillanas, and delicious food and drinks.
The dates of the fair are not fixed, but it usually takes place two weeks after Holy week and lasts for one week. The fair starts with the alumbrado, the lighting of the portada (facade), at the entrance to the fairgrounds.
The fair resembles a small town with streets and casetas (booths). Sevillians light the streets with bulbs covered with farolillos (lanterns) and the sand used in the streets is the same from the gardens and bullrings of Seville. The casetas belong to families, groups, clubs or political parties and it is where Sevillians usually hold their private parties. People dance, eat, drink and socialize during these parties.
Dancing is a big part during these days and Sevillanas is one of the most popular dance. This is a type of folk music and dance from Sevilla. This music and dance combination includes 4 different parts.
One thing that makes the event more authentic is that women usually dress in the traditional flamenco dresses and men dress in the traditional farm-workers clothes.
Besides dancing, bullfighting also takes place during this time and people can enjoy the rides of an amusement park. In the end, Sevillians say goodbye to the fair with a firework show.
La Feria de abril festival was declared a Tourist Festival of International Interest in 1980.
SAN JUAN’S NIGHT
La noche de Juan or San Juan’s night is a night where fire is the main element and most places in Spain celebrate it on the 23rd.
This celebration has both Christian and pagan origins. The Christian origin comes from the celebration of the birth of San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist). The second one celebrates the summer solstice.
The celebrations vary depending on the region of Spain. However, fire plays a big part in this festival and thus, hogueras (bonfires), fuegos artificiales (fireworks) and petardos (firecrackers) are common almost everywhere. In addition, beaches are the favorite place for people to have verbenas (open-air festival) during this night.
Although all the celebrations this night are important and unique, one is especially important. We are talking about Fogueres de Sant Joan (Sant Joan´s Bonfires) from Alicante, which was declared a Tourist Festival of International Interest in 1983 and a Bien de Interés Cultural Inmaterial in 2014. Its origins comes from burning useless objects with the arrival of the summer solstice. The event goes from the 20th to the 29th, but the most important day is the 24th, when the cremà takes place at night. This night the people from Alicante burn big satirical statues.
One typical dessert of this night is coca de San Juan, which is very common in Catalonia. It is a sweet dessert normally with pine nuts and candied fruits or custard.
La Tomatina is one of the most internationally known Spanish festivals. It is the “Spanish tomato festival” that happens on the last Wednesday of August in a small town called Buñol (Valencia). During this festival people throw tomatoes at each other turning the festival into a huge tomato food fight.
The most accepted theory about its origin says that La Tomatina started in 1945 during a dispute at the Giants and Big-Heads figures parade, when people started throwing vegetables from a nearby stand at each other.
The event starts after someone grabs a ham which is hanging from the top of the Palo jabón (a greased-up pole).
Then, big trucks full of tomatoes drive slowly through the crowd while people on the top throw tomatoes to the participants.
After this, the trucks open their trunks letting all the tomatoes fall into the streets, which people pick up as ammo and “swim” in them.
One hour later, the fight is over. After the fight, trucks with hoses and people sweeping are in charged of cleaning the streets.
The festival has become so popular that in 2002, it was declared a Tourist Festival of International Interest and for the first time in 2013 the capacity was restricted. Now, the participation is restricted to 20,000 people with paid tickets.
Do you feel like having a souvenir from this popular and unique festival? Click here and find a few of them.
Among all the Spanish festivals, Sanfermines or Las Fiestas de San Fermín is without a doubt the most popular. It takes place in Pamplona (Navarra) each year from the 6th to the 14th of July and the most well-known event of this festival is the Running of the Bulls.
A rocket called Chupinazo opens the event which takes place at the main square of the city. The festival ends with the song Pobre de mí.
The Running of the bulls or encierro is the most popular event. It consists of hundreds of people running down the old streets of Pamplona in front of bulls. The encierro ends at the bullfighting arena. The event starts at 8:00 every day with firecrackers that announce that the bulls have been released. Then, the event also ends with firecrackers to indicate that the bulls are in their bullpens.
In addition, the festival holds other events such as bullfighting, giants and big-heads parade, concerts, traditional sports, a procession and fireworks.
The origin of this festival is the combination of different medieval events: a religious event honoring Saint Fermín, livestock fairs and bullfighting. They were held in different moments of the year, but in 1591 they were all joined together in July when Pamplona’s weather is better.
The festival became internationally popular thanks to the novel The Sun Also Rises that the American writer Ernest Hemingway wrote. The book talks about American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights. The festival was declared a Tourist Festival of International Interest in 1980.
SANT JORDI DAY
Sant Jordi day is when people in Catalonia where people celebrate the day of their patron saint San Jordi (Saint George). The Celebration takes place on the 23rd of April and roses and books play a big role on this day.
During this celebration, it is the tradition that men give women roses and women give men books. It can be anybody, it doesn´t necessarily have to be your partner. Fathers buy roses for their daughters or girls buy books for their friends. Also, nowadays the tradition is not followed as strictly. Men can buy books for women and vice versa.
The origin of the tradition of giving flowers comes from the legend of Saint Jordi. The legend says that a knight named Jordi saved a princess from being eaten by a dragon who had been terrorizing a village. After he stabbed his sword into it, a rose appeared from the dragon’s blood, which Jordi handed to the princess.
The custom of giving a book comes from the fact that this day is also El Día del Libro or The Day of the Book. This day is the anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, the most famous Spanish writer, and Shakespeare.
If you ever have the chance to go to Catalonia this day, you will see stands with roses and books almost everywhere. However, one of the most popular places is Las Ramblas in Barcelona, which is full of stands and people all along the way.
SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE’S CARNIVAL
Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands) is home of the most famous carnival in Spain, which attracts people from all over the world. It was declared a Tourist Festival of International Interest in 1980.
The dates of the carnival changes every year, since it depends on the dates of Holy Week. Generally, people in Tenerife celebrate the Carnival between the end of February and the beginning of March.
One of the most important events of the festival is the Carnival Queen selection that takes place the Wednesday of the first week of festivities. Here the contestants wear spectacular costumes and compete to become the queen of the carnival.
Then, the Cabalgata Anunciadora del Carnaval (Announcement Parade) is held on the Friday and represents the beginning of the Carnival.
Murgas, comparsas, rondallas and carrozas (floats) are part of the parade. Murgas are group of people who sing critical songs in a satirical way. Comparsas are groups of musicians, singers and dancers who imitate Río de Janeiro’s carnival samba schools. Rondallas are musical groups that play classical songs. And carrozas transport the candidates dressed in their customs.
Over the next days different groups perform. After this, the Cabalgata del Coso, an amazing parade, takes place on Tuesday.
Afterwards, people celebrate the Entierro de la Sardina (Burial of the Sardine) on Ash Wednesday, which marks the end of the festival. The burial parodies a funeral procession of a giant Sardine and ends with the burning of the figure.
However, the actual final ending is the celebration of the Piñata Chica on the weekend, with shows, dances and parades.
If you want a souvenir from this popular festival, take a look here.
Spanish Festivals and Dates
|Cordoba Patios Festival||Córdoba, Andalusia||Beginning of May|
|Christmas Season||Everywhere||From the 24th of December to 6th of January|
|Holy Week||Everywhere||From Palm Sunday to Easter or Easter Monday|
|Las Fallas||Valencia, Valencia||From the 1st to the 19th of March|
Main part: from the 15th to19th of March
|Feria de abril||Sevilla, Andalusia||Two weeks after Holy week|
|La Noche de San Juan||Everywhere||Generally the night of the 23th of June|
|La Tomatina||Buñol, Valencia||The last Wednesday of August|
|San Fermines||Pamplona, Navarre||From the 6th to 14th of July|
|Sant Jordi Festival||Catalonia||The 23th of April|
|Tenerife´s Carnival||Tenerife, Canary Islands||Between the end of February and the beginning of March.|
Spain has a large variety of festivals, each with its own traditions and customs. Here, we only showed you a few of them.
We hope you learned what the most well known Spanish festivals are and you can go to one of them someday so that you are able to experience first-hand Spanish culture.
If you enjoyed reading this post you will probably enjoy learning about 35 interesting facts about Spain.
Now, we would like to hear from you.
- Which festival do you like the most?
- Have you ever been to any of these festivals?
- Do you know about any other festivals that take place in Spain?
Share your answers in the comment section below!
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