Spain is best know for its fiestas and its siestas. Spanish festivals take place in almost every city, town, and village throughout the country at some point during the year. Most of the fiestas have deep religious and historical meaning. Fiestas are a way for the locals to show off their cultural and social life. What better way to immerse yourself into the Spanish way of life than to attend one of these traditional celebrations!?!?
Have fun and remember to be smart!
The annual celebrations of Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cádiz are known around the world easily rivaling those of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During Carnaval, thousands of people and dozens of musical groups fill the streets for hours of music and fun as the different carnival groups perform. The lyrics of the songs take current social and political themes as their subject, all treated with a good dose of humor. The 10 day celebration is filled with shows, dances, and parades.
Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz is the home of Flamenco. It is a town that has a small center, impressive architecture, some fascinating sherry bodegas offering enticing visitor tours and, of course, its incomparable equestrian heritage. During this festival the entire town is taken over by las cantes, el toque, las bailes, palmas, el jaleo y los pitos de Flamenco. Famous Flamenco artist perform at concerts, give workshops and also classes from beginners to experts. There is no doubt you will witness authentic, raw flamenco if you venture to Jerez de la Frontera, the city that prides itself on producing the most (and best) Flamenco singers, dancers, and musicians.
Las Fallas is Valencia’s most international festival. The city fills with gigantic cardboard monuments, called ninots, for a competition that is marked by art, ingenuity and good taste. The origin of the celebration goes back to the carpenter’s parot: these were wooden lamps used to light their workshops in winter, which they would burn out in the street on the night before the feast of San José (the patron saint of carpenters) to celebrate the end of dark winter days.
Today, the ninots are placed throughout the city and often depict satirical representations of well-known Spanish and international celebrities or politicians. On the final night of the festival the ninots are set on fire creating an event of flames, music and fireworks. All are burnt except one ninot which, elected by a popular vote, is saved from the flames to form part of the collection at the Fallero Museum.
Semana Santa is one of the most important festivals on the Spanish calendar. It is held on the week leading to Easter Sunday. Easter week is celebrated in every city, town and village in Spain, but the biggest event is in Sevilla. The celebrations in Sevilla date back to the 16th century. The week consists of processions in which enormous floats are carried around the streets by teams of religious brotherhoods. Each float shows a small part of the Easter story. The highlight of the fiesta is the procession on Good Friday when the floats leave the churches in the middle of the night and are carried throughout the night to their final destination: the cathedral. (Note: Semana Santa processions can be seen in a variety of cities throughout Spain such as; Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Valladolid, Salamanca, Cartagena, etc.)
La fiesta de Moros y Cristianos is a very old tradition and commemorates a battle which was fought in 1276. Thanks to the city’s patron saint the victory went to the Christians in spite of their being outnumbered by the Moors. Locals dress up as either Moors or Christians and re-enact battle scenes between the two groups that took place during the Christian Reconquest. On the first day, there is a spectacular procession of Moors and Christians in their elaborate costumes. The balconies of the whole town are decorated with the red cross flag of San Jorge. In the streets mock battles take place between the armies of the Moros y Cristianos and the city is covered with the fog of gunpowder.
La feria is one of Sevilla’s most popular festival. It was created in 1847 as a cattle fair and over time it became the city’s biggest annul fiesta. During the week of feria, more than a thousand casetas are installed in the fairground area and it becomes a place where people come together to have fun and share experiences until the early hours of the morning. The fiesta officially begins at midnight on Monday with the illumination of the thousands of multi-colored light bulbs in the fairground and adorning the main gateway. Dancing Sevillana, singing, eating, and good wine all take place once inside the fair. People dress in typical Andalusian outfits and ride around on horse carriages. Bullfighting occurs every afternoon and the week ends with a spectacular firework display. You should bear in mind that most of the stalls are privately owned and can be entered only by invitation from the members or their friends. There are however public tents which are open to all. The information office at the entrance to the fair will tell you which they are.
This fiesta honors the patron saint of Madrid, San Isidro. In the world of bullfighting, San Isidro marks the start of the bullfighting season and attracts all the top bullfighters and bull breeders. On May 15th Madrileños dress up in traditional costumes and head to Plaza Mayor where there is traditional dancing and concerts.Throughout the weekend of the there are plenty of concerts and street parades proceeding through the city center.