Spain is known for many pop culture aspects such as Flamenco music and dancing, bull fighting, and its variety of Spanish art. However, there’s one thing Spain is well known for, the many festivals taken place throughout Spain. There are festivals for nearly everything all over Spain, including La Tomatina Tomato Festival near Valencia. The festivals in Spain are unique and used to bring neighbors and other residents together. Spanish festivals have religious origins however, Spaniards take their festivals seriously, right down to their costumes, traditional dances and the sharing of large meals. Festivals are celebrated up until the early morning hours. During my time abroad, I plan to travel and celebrate every festival I can. What I look forward to while studying abroad in the spring is that many festivals are taken place throughout my time there.
In March from the 15th to the 19th, the Fallas fiesta takes in Valencia. Though there are many festivals throughout Spain, Fallas festival is one of the few that attracts many oversea tourists and Spanish natives from all over. The Fallas festival is also known as the Fire festival. The festival pays homage to the patron saint of carpenters, San José. How the festival is planned and executed is each neighborhood has an organized committee who raise money to build the ninots, puppets or dolls made of cardboard, wood, paper- maché and plaster. The overall focus of Las Fallas, meaning the fires, is to create and destroy the ninots. The ninots are usually figurines of people in current events. A popular theme amongst the ninots is to create them based off of corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities. The creation of the ninots cost about $75,000 dollars and take about a year to complete. They are over a several stories tall and need to be transported to their final destination over 350 intersections and parks across the city on the day of la planta, the rising. The ninots remains afloat until the 19th also known as the day of La Cremá, the burning. During the early evening of La Cremá, men would strategically chop holes in the ninots and hid fireworks within the ninots. Before midnight, crowds begin to chant and the lights are shut off. Then, all the ninots are lit up exactly at 12 a.m. However, not all ninots are set on fire, each year one of the ninots is chosen by popular vote and is pardoned from the burning. The ninot chosen is called the ninot indultat, the pardoned puppet. It will then be displayed in the Museum of Ninot along with previous ninot indultats. However, there is much more to the Las Fallas festival than just the destruction of the ninots. Activities such as bullfights, parades, paella contests and beauty pageants that take place all over the city of Valencia. The highlight of the festival is a daily mascletá that takes place at 2 pm. During this time, string fire crackers are set off and create a sound that can be musical and ground shaking for at least ten minutes. Fortunately, I would be able to attend this festival and look forward to the many activities this festival has to offer.
Just after Las Fallas festival in March, the city of Seville throws its annual week long party during the spring. This celebration is known as La Feria de Abril, which attracts over a million people. In 1847, La feria was just a cattle trading fair. When Queen Isabel II approved the proposal submitted by José María Ybarra and Narcisco Bonaplata, the first fair was held at the Prado de San Sebastian. By 1920, La feria became one of the biggest festivals in Spain. The fair takes place in a city set up near the Rio Guadalquivir, called the Real de la Feria, which is a mile long and over 700 yards wide. The fair officially begins on midnight on a Monday and runs for about six days, ending on the next Sunday. The first night of the fair is know as La noche del pascaíto , the night of the fish. This is primarily due to the fact that fish is a traditional dinner staple. The celebration kicks off when the lights of the portada are lit during the celebration called the alumbrao. Guest then head to brightly colored casetas, tents, decorated with thousands of paper lanterns. Each casetas is set as a temporary dance hall filled with flamenco music and dancing starting at 9pm and ending as late as six or seven in the morning. Each casetas is hosted by different Sevillan families, organizations and political parties. Many of the tents require an invitation while many others are open to the public and offer bars. La feria creates a fun experience while you are constantly searching for the right caseta. However, the most popular and well known caseta is Er 77. In this caseta wine is poured by the buckets and where beds are available to sleep off the wine. Other than the many casetas you can explore; La feria de Abril offers many activities during the day as well. To kick off the fair, there are parades of horses and carriages that can be found travelling throughout the city and fairgrounds. If watching and waiting for the equestrian parade isn’t for you, there’s Las corridas, bull fights that is a staple Spanish culture. The fair attracts many famous matadors from across the country. Every every afternoon a 5:30pm at the Plaza de Toros de Maestranza also known as “The Cathedral” to the locals. This upcoming fair will take place on April 12th to the 17th.
Not too long after La feria de Abril in Seville, the festivities of San Isidro takes place in Madrid on May 15th, the day of San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers. During this time, residents of Madrid dress up in the traditional attire of Madrid and head out to the streets to celebrate and indulge in music and dancing. Also taking place is the San Isidro bullfighting festival held in the Las Ventas bullring where the biggest names in bullfighting can be found. Being the capital of Spain, Madrid has kept its culture intact and the festivities of San Isidro brings out just that. During the weekend there are many concerts and parades that are happening. What truly brings out the culture in Madrid is when the local residents are dressed up in traditional chualpo and goyesco costumes. In the morning of May 15th, the pradera of San Isidro is where people gather around and take pilgrimage to the shrine of the saint. It is tradition that everyone is to drink from the spring. Participants then partake in a picnic where there are many food stands that offer many traditional Madrid dishes.
Later on during the year in August, La Tomatina Tomato festival takes place in Buñol near Valencia. This occurs during the last Wednesday of each August, however the celebrations during early in the week. The main highlight of the tomato festival is the massive tomato fight that takes place during 11am to 1pm that same day. Over thousands of people gather around this small town to take part of this crazy event. There’s no explanation as to why La Tomatina started however there were theories dating back to 1945 when a parade passed through Buñol and a child knocked over one of the giant figures that led to a fight in which resulted in those around to throw tomatoes at the figure until it was broken up by the police. La tomatina has became of one the biggest festivals in Spain, therefore it is required to purchase tickets and you must follow the rules of the festival. The rules include no tearing of t-shirts, crushing tomatoes before throwing them and once you hear the second banger you must stop throwing tomatoes.
There are many festivals that take place all over Spain. Travelling abroad to Spain is definitely an opportunity to experience as many festivals as possible. Festivals allow you to experience the culture in an integral way and get the experience of a lifetime.