Fiestas and Ferias Across Spain


traditional-spanish-feriasSpaniards know how to live life and from their example you can get a true flavour of the Spanish culture in its full form through their annual fairs and days of fiesta. Fiestas include such celebrations as Saints Days, harvest days, sports events, bull fighting, music and town specific celebrations and traditions.

Ever present too are the religious based holidays which are at the core of many celebrations. If you want to experience, first hand, Spanish culture in action, then the town festival is the place to be.

    The celebrations in Spain have something to offer everyone, adults and children alike, Spaniards and foreigners.

Although fiestas and ferias take place year round, the majority take place when the weather is warm and everyone is in the mood to celebrate. Thus, from July to September you will have so many festivals and fairs to choose from, you won´t know which direction to go. The fact is, you can´t go wrong, each town has its own particular traditions which are a delight to discover and experience!

The fairs offer a great way to see traditional Spanish lifestyle in its purest form, bringing out all the local people, food, music, dance and oftentimes crazy traditions.

Below is a list of festivals and fairs that take place annually in Spain. Although it does not include all that Spain has to offer. You can always check in the local town hall of the town you are visiting or living in for a list of celebrations throughout the year.

JANUARY

Tamborrada de San Sebastian/The San Sebastian Drum Festival – January 1st.
In San Sebastian crowds march to the deafening sounds of drums as groups of drummers parade through the city, celebrating the new year. The next morning, the “Tamborrada Infantil” (Child Drummer’s Ceremony) is celebrated with groups of children drumming their way through the town which kicks off that nights celebration of the cities patron Saint.

Fiesta de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day)/Epiphany – January 5-6
All over Spain celebrations for the Three Kings take place, since it is the Three Kings on their camels – rather than Santa Claus drawn by reindeer – who distributes presents to children the night of the 5th. The following day the Three Kings parade draw out all the local children as the Kings ride through the streets on camels tossing sweets to the crowds.

Fiestas de San Antonio Abad – January 17. Mallorca, Balearic Islands.
On the eve and actual day of this Saint, there are “foguerons” (bonfires) on the beaches of Mallorca, with “demons” dancing round. The accompanying tradition includes the greased-pole contest where participants try to climb the slippery pole.

FEBRUARY

La Endiablada/The Disguised Devils, Cuenca, Castilla y La Mancha. February 1
People of this village in the Province of Cuenca celebrate disguised as devils in this festival of prehistoric origin. The young boys of the town dressed as devils – wearing pants and jackets painted in bright designs, with large cowbells tied to their waists, and multicolored paper hats, which are replaced later on with cardboard bishop mitres – run through the streets, dance at the entrance and inside the church, pretend to wash the statue of San Blas, and march in procession with it to the uninterrupted sound of the cowbells.

Carnival – Cadiz
The spectacular Carnival in Cadiz which precedes Semana Santa – Holy Week is the most celebrated carnival in Spain. During the Middle Ages the Catholic Church adapted a pagan festival as a way for Catholics to let off a little steam before the Lenten fasting. Flashy costumes, great music and grand parades take place in the streets of Spain, creating an exciting atmosphere and joyous party. The carnival in Cadiz can even be compared in scale and energy to the Carnivals in Brazil. However, the smaller pueblo Carnivals are fun too and have their own character.

Carnaval del Toro/Carnival of the Bull. Salamanca, Castilla y Leon
Apart from the conventional fights, bulls are the very heart of many celebrations in the form of “encierros” (running them into the pens) or “capeas'”(playing with them with the cape). Prior to the town´s Carnival, bulls are let loose to run through the town to the local bull ring to begin a week of traditional bull fights.

MARCH

Fiesta del Queso/Cheese Festival 1st Sunday. Arzua, La Coruña, Galicia.
A popular festival featuring typical varieties of cheeses from the area, along with good food, wine and free evening concerts.

Fallas de San Jose/Bonfires of San Jose. March 12-19. Valencia
Just before the spring equinox, everything negative left over from the cold days is burned in the blazing bonfires of the “fallas.” The festivites include a nighttime parade, a procession through the old town of Valencia, offerings of flowers made by the “falleras” to Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken), patroness of the city and the famous “Nit del Foc” (Night of the Fire) where all the “fallas” (large comical and satirical papier mache figures) are burned.

APRIL

Semana Santa/ Holy Week
All throughout Spain, Semana Santa is probably the most significant religious celebration of all. Flowers and lit candles adorn huge floats featuring lavish lifesize statues of Jesus and Mary in tragic re-enactment of the events of Holy Week. Members of various brotherhoods carry these floats (pasos), bearing the weight on their shoulders for hours on end as the floats travel to the town center and then back to their church of origin. They are preceded and followed by large marching bands playing mournful and eerie music with devotional hooded penitents walking alongside. Streets full of enthusiastic and curious on-lookers watch the daily processions go by, sometimes in oppressive silence. However, the general atmosphere is one of celebration. The processions in Andalucia are the most impressive, Seville and Malaga having the grandest of all.

Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) .April 22 -24. Alicante, Valencia.
Starting with the feast of the Holy Christ, in Valverde del Jucar (Cuenca) in January and ending with the “Moorish King” in Agost (Alicante) in December, almost one hundred and fifty celebrations of “Moors and Christians” take place over the length and breadth of the country. The most traditional are in Alcoy with its battles, processions, displays, speeches, plays and dances. The majority are found in Alicante where the festivities become livelier and more numerous as the days pass. As early as the 17th century, groups of Moors and Christians drove through the town accompanied by noisy bands, after which a “battle” ensues, ending with the triumph of the followers of the Cross, who surround the Moors and defeat them. Everything goes on amidst the noise of fireworks and the ringing of bells.

Sant Jordi Day. April 23. Catalonia
Catalonia celebrates its patron Saint this day. This is traditionally celebrated by a man giving a red rose to a woman and a woman giving a book to a man.

Feria de Abril/April Fair. April 25-30. Sevilla, Andalucia.
Shortly after Holy Week, the Seville Fair opens, brimming over with joy. For a little over a century, the April Fairs of Sevilla, which were originally only a market for livestock, have become one of the most fascinating spectacles offered in Spain. Morning, evening and night there is great music and food as well as the famed bull fights. Late at night the spirit takes over the numerous flamenco singers and crowds of dancers dancing sevillanas. The Real de la Feria blazes with multicolored tents, wreaths and paper lanterns outlined against the sky. Handsome couples, riding beautiful horses and dressed in the Andalusian ruffles, country finery and broad-brimmed hats, and the brilliantly decorated coaches with bells on their reins leave their marks in the white dusty paths.

MAY

Dia de la Cruz/Holy Cross Day. May 3. Murcia.
This is a special day when Crosses of flowers are set up, in little altars, all around the picturesque village of Cieza. From the Asuncion Church, a building from the seventeenth century, comes a procession which circles the village around the altars.

Festival de los Patios Cordobeses/The Cordoba Patio Festival.Cordoba, Andalucia. Dia de la Cruz/Holy Cross Day. Cordoba, Andalucia.
Large flower covered crosses are placed throughout the old town and locals open their doors to the public to enter their charming and lavishly flowered patios. Each year a special prize is given to the person with the most beautiful and typical Cordobese patio.

Corpus Christi. May 29(end of May).
The nun Juliana of Liege had a strange vision every time she prayed, in which a full moon appeared with its centre darkened by shadow. Finally, Jesus himself told her of the significance of the vision- the bright circle signified all liturgical celebrations and these were only darkened by the absence of a feast day dedicated to the exaltation of the actual presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Official recognition of the feast day was given in 1246. The new feast day arrived in Spain sometime during the 14th century. In the procession, the main feature is the Host, housed in magnificent masterpieces of silverwork.

JUNE

Romeria El Rocio/Pilgrimmage to El Rocio. June 12. El Rocio, Huelva.
If you want a real Spanish experience, the Romeria (Pilgrimmage) to El Rocio is not typically a tourist draw. One week prior to June 12th thousands of Spaniards in Andalucia travel to the small town of El Rocio (with only 1,000 inhabitants) in brightly decorated caravans and horse drawn carriages. Followers, largely made up of gitanos (gypsies) make their way to the Shrine of Senora del Rocio (Our Lady of the Dew) also known as La Blanca Paloma (The White Dove) in the province of Huelva. This is an occasion of much flamenco, dancing and horsemanship. The culmination of the celebration happens at 3am when the much loved statue of Rocio is carried out of the church on the shoulders of devotees into the crowd of people, waiting to express their devotion and love.

Hogueras de San Juan. June 20 to 29. Alicante, Valencia.
On the shortest night of the year, a series of ancient rituals take place around the feast of San Juan. The streets are often decorated with branches and leaves, especially the balconies of young girls in love, who are serenaded, pines and poplars are planted, pilgrimages (‘romerias’) are undertaken, straw effiges are burnt, the herb thyme is blessed, and ‘sanjuanera’ songs are sung.

San Juan´s Day-Saint Joans Day/Mid-Summer´s Night. June 24.
This celebration takes place in most coastal towns by the making of large bonfires (and often fireworks). At midnight everyone jumps over the flames to bring good luck for the following year.

Battalla de Vino/Wine Battle. June 29. Haro, Castille- Leon.
The pre-emminent wine town of Haro is the site where thousands of people take part in full fledged wine battle. For two hours people pour, squirt, spray and throw red wine at each other disposing of many thousands of litres of red wine. Traditionally, participants all wear white which, of course, is quickly soaked to a light purple colour.

JULY

Fiesta of San Fermin/Running of the Bulls. July 6. Pamplona, Navarra.
The famous running of the bulls in Pamplona is in honour of the towns patron Saint San Fermin. The whole town lines the streets to cheer on the runners dressed in white and red as these dare devils run (literally) for their life to escape being trampled and gored by the sharp horns as the bulls make their way from one end of town to the other. A week long fiesta follows this one day event, devoted entirely to bull fights.

Dia de Santiago. July 25. Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.
A national holiday in celebration of the patron Saint of Spain with fireworks, parades and televised mass.
Danzandores de Anguiano.July 7 to September 17 (variable). Anguiano, La Rioja.
Dancers give tribute to the Virgin then go down a steep grade (cuesta) on stilts (zancas).

AUGUST

Romeria Vikinga/Viking Pilgrimmage. August 3. Pontevedra, Galicia.
A splendid simulation of the Viking invasion of the “Torres de Oeste,” which are defended by the Christian natives. After the ‘battle'” everybody drinks red wine from the Ulla River area and eats seafood, all for free. The feast is followed by folkloric dancing, in which everyone participates.

La Fiesta de La Borbolla. Mid-August to September. La Borbolla, Asturias.
A colourful display of dancers and musicians sing the “ramo” in tribute to the Virgin. Then they parade around this very picturesque town and dance the primitive typical dance of Asturias.

Dia de Asturias/Day of Asturias. First Sunday in August. Gijon, Asturias.
The main activity of this fiesta is the lavish and spectacular procession of garlanded carriages and the foreign folklore groups, ending in a huge procession typical to equestrian field of the “mestas” (famer´s council).

Misterio de Elche/The Elche Mystery Play. August 14 and 15. Alicante, Valencia.
“El Misteri d’Elx” is a beautiful mystery play performed inside the Basilica of Santa Maria in Elche to celebrate Assumption Day, during the evenings of the 14th (‘Vespra” or first act of the drama) and the 15th (“Festa” or second act which reaches its climax with the emotional coronation by the Holy Trinity). Perhaps the most faithful reproduction, certainly the most beautiful, of what tradition has given us regarding this event, called Mary’s “dormicion.”

Vitoria´s Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca. August 4-9. Vitoria, Cantabria.
The major fiestas of the Basque Country in the cities of San Sebastian de Compostela, Vittoria and Bilbao take place in August. Clearly demonstrating the different customs in each town is “Vitoria´s Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca” which begins with a peculiar and humorous start. A mannequin carrying an umbrella is lowered on a rope from the San Miguel church tower to a house below in the plaza. A man in similar clothes comes out of the house and the waiting crowds applaud and everyone lights a cigar.

“La Tomatina”/Tomatoe Throwing. Last Wednesday in August. Bunol. Valencia
The highlight of Bunol´s annual fair is a battle where thousands of participants, dressed in their worst clothes, pelt each other with ripe tomatoes. This amusing battle starts at 11am and lasts for one hour. The town provides truck loads of ripe tomatoes for the crowds to hurl at one another. The battle originated in 1944 when there was a battle between friends but other rumours say that dissatisfied locals pelted civic dignitaries during a procession which later became an annual tradition.

Fiesta de Verano/Summer Fair. Second week in August. Malaga, Andalucia.
This festival usually starts with spectacular fireworks then takes to the city centre streets. People wear traditional Spanish costumes and dance “sevillanas” and “malaguenas” in the street; eat fish, cheese and ham and drink a delicious, sweet, red wine. The fair takes place during bullfighting season, so one can see a great bullfight in the afternoon.
El Coso. August 28. Felanitx, Balearic Islands.

Felanitx celebrates its local fiesta on Saint Augustine’s day, an exotic patron saint, given that most Majorcan towns and villages celebrate Saint John, Saint Anthony, Saint Joseph or Saint Sebastian. The Town Hall organizes a whole week of activities: sports, theatre, a children’s festival, etc., including four or five outdoors music and dance night festivals, called “verbenes.”

SEPTEMBER

Feria de Jerez/Harvest Festival. Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz.
The Harevst festival of Jerez de la Fronteria (famous for its Spanish Sherry) takes place in early September.

Feria de Perdo Romero. First half of September. Ronda, Malaga.
The Feria de Perdo Romero proudly celebrates the Romero family, the founders of modern bullfighting. The main attraction is the Corrida Goyesca with toreros (bull fighters) dressed in costumes based on the paintings of Goya. Ronda is very proud of its status as the birthplace of modern bull fighting and having the oldest bull ring in Spain, being inaugurated in 1784. It was here in the 18th century that the Romero family first laid down the rules of bullfighting that remain valid to this day. This is also a great feria to hear and see authentic Flamenco and beautiful Andalucian horses and riders.

Fiestas Patronales de La Virgen de Gracia. Albacete, Castilla y La Mancha.
With more than 400 years of tradition behind them, the Fiestas of Caudete are celebrated every year to honour its Virgin, La Virgen de Gracia. The main components are the fireworks, gunpowder, music, procession, and flower offering to the Virgin.

Feria de albacete . September 7 to17. Albacete, Castilla y La Mancha.
A wide variety of social activities and entertainment are provided following the annual celebration of Santa María de los Llanos. Originally conceived as a display of cattle and agricultural products, it has become a fully comprehensive “feria,” a holiday period when all kinds of leisure activities and fiestas are included, the most remarkable of which is bullfighting.

Fiestas de la Vendimia Riojana/ La Rioja Wine Festival . September 21. Logrono, La Rioja.
Harvesting festivities of one of the most renown wine regions in Spain.
Fiestas de Nuestra Senora de La Merced. September 24. Barcelona, Catalunya.
During the celebration of “La Merced,” festive and cultural events of all types take place in lovely Barcelona.

DECEMBER

Fiestas Patronales de la Virgen del Castillo. Yecla, Murcia.
Before moving into Advent, the Church calendar ends in December with the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Among the celebrations in the Virgin’s honour are a procession of her image from the shrine of the castle and special Mass.

Cant de Sa Sibilla/Hymn to St Sibyl . December 25. Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands.
Preparations for Christmas take the form of morning choruses and the “Canta de San Sibilla” throughout the south of France, Catalunya, the Balearic Islands and Corsica. This festival was banned by the Council of Trent (possibly for its pagan roots). Nevertheless, the Bishop of Mallorca decided to allow it to take place, hence its preservation.

Navidad/Christmas Day. December 25.
Traditionally, Christmas Eve and Christmas day are probably the quietest of the religious holidays in Spain, an evening reserved for family and a fine feast. Gifts are guarded until the eve of January 5th when the Three Kings visit the young children and deliver gifts.


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