Tips: google with name of town or city and name of festival for more information. Look carefully as there is often information from previous years still posted. If you are already in the area: check with local or regional tourism office as details vary from year to year – or dates may change slightly to hold celebrations on weekends. If you are in a village and there is no tourism office, ask at the local bakery or bar. See Madrid’s drop-down menu for fiestas in that city.
April: When Easter falls in April, other fiestas get lost in the shuffle, but keep these in mind: Feria de Abril in Sevilla, usually two weeks after Easter. April 21 in Tauste (Zaragoza), with typical dances for several days around this date.
April 14: Work day but semi-celebrated by many: Day of the Spanish Republic. Second Spanish Republic was declared on April 14, 1931 after King Alfonso XIII abdicated following municipal elections showing lack of support for the monarchy. The Spanish Republic was the official government of Spain until March 31, 1939 when the Civil War ended with defeat of the Republic and victory of opposing forces led by Francisco Franco. Though not officially “celebrated” sometimes there are conferences about the Republic, demonstrations and people fly the Republic’s tri-color flag (red, yellow and purple) from balconies or windows.
April 23 (San Jorge) is celebrated in a lot of places, including: Moros y Cristianos in Alcoy (Alicante), a huge, elaborate re-enactment of battles between Christians and Muslims – similar fiestas in other towns in Alicante province; in Catalunya it is traditional for men to give women a rose, and women give men a book – this coincides with International Book Day, so there are book stalls in the streets all over Spain;Huesca, for procession to San Jorge’s country chapel, celebrated since the 14th century.
Work day but important for readers everywhere: International Book Day (April 23), first celebrated in Spain in 1923 to honor Miguel de Cervantes on the date of his death. In 1995 Unesco declared the date International Book Day because of the Spanish (well… Catalonian) celebration and because William Shakespeare died on the same date. Note the wording: same DATE. Tradition has always claimed that these two great writers died on April 23, 1616, but while that makes a great story it isn’t really true. Cervantes died on April 22 and was buried on April 23 and while Shakespeare died on April 23 it was in England, which still used the old Julian calendar instead of the “new” Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar was enacted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to correct the calendar – until then there were no Leap Years and things were out of whack. Catholic countries accepted the change immediately but other countries did not; England was on the Julian calendar until 1752. So while Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 by the Julian calendar, by the new Gregorian calendar it was really May 3. In Catalonia Book Day (San Jorge) tradition used to be for a woman to give a man a book, and for him to give her a rose – fortunately that has relaxed a little so women can receive books too, and supposedly it would be ok to give a man a rose (or not ok?). This coincidence in time between two fabulous writers inspired a fun romantic comedy about a (fictional?) meeting between Miguel and William and (of course) there’s a pretty girl in the mix. Set in Spain, great photography, dialogue flips back and forth between Spanish and English. Not a Great Film but Lots of Fun, name of movie is Miguel y William (Michael and William in English version), year 2007 and directed by Inés Paris. Might be on Netflix, cannot see from my computer, might be at some Spanish movie stores.
USUAL CELEBRATIONS IN MADRID: Noche de los Libros / Book Night on April 23 when many bookstores will be open late and offering special discounts. You will also probably see book stands in the street for most of the upcoming week, usually offering a discount. Another traditional part of the Madrid celebration is reading the entire Don Quijote in three days at the Circulo de Bellas Artes. It starts evening of April 22 and ends on April 24, usually has participation of famous Spaniards from world of arts and letters. They retransmit live and interpret in sign language. Where: Circulo de Bellas Artes, Sala de Columnas (calle Alcala 42) website http://www.circulobellasartes.com Scroll down a bit to find Quijote link in left column
April 25 (San Marcos), whose celebrations are often related to blessing the countryside or livestock. Celebrated in many places, among them: Balsareny (Barcelona) by blessing bread, which is then kept as protection against hail; Cadiar (Granada) Casabermeja (Malaga) and Castellar de Santiago (Ciudad Real), Loja (Granada), processions to country chapels or picnics in the country; Morella (Castellon), Moveros de Aliste (Zamora), with a procession to a chapel on the Portuguese border. Sunday after San Marcos: Tafalla (Navarra), pilgrimage to the chapel-fortress of Ujue, important center of pilgrimage for all of Navarra. April 27, Montserrat monastery for the saint’s day of the popular Virgen of Montserrat, one of the best-loved in all of Catalunya. April 28, Ribadavia (Ourense), Ribeiro wine festival. Last Sunday of April, celebrations of the Virgen de la Cabeza in several places in Andalucia, including: Andujar (Jaen), procession to the country chapel of the Virgen de la Cabeza, 33 kilometers from town: the walk starts at dawn on Saturday with some 150.000 “pilgrims” and 40 brotherhoods from all over Andalucia and other parts of Spain. Benamaurel (Granada), with Moros and Cristianos that fight over the statue of the Virgen de la Cabeza. Capileira (Granada, in the Sierra Nevada), evening procession and fireworks. Cazorla (Jaen), procession to country chapel, Cogollos de Guadix (Granada), another procession. Puebla de Guzman (Huelva), procession to chapel of the Virgen de la Peña, witha “sword dance” and pretty regional dress for women. Also last Sunday: Mora de Toledo, olive festival.
Last days of April – first days of May: “Los Mayos” and “Santa Cruz” (May 3), celebrated in lots of places, but especially en Castilla-La Mancha, a little less in Castilla-Leon and a few towns in the north. These fiestas often include a contest between neighborhoods for the best decoration of a cross; in other towns the unmarried men sing under the balconies of the unmarried woman who has caught their eye. Some towns include regional dances, drumming, theater, parades and other non-religious celebrations. Check dates for your destination as these fiestas can be celebrated together or only partially, depending on the region. Some places that celebrate these fiestas: Pontevedra, Pastrana (Guadalajara), Redondela (Pontevedra), Tossa de Mar (Girona), Villagarcia de Arosa (Pontevedra), Villanueva de los Infantes (Ciudad Real), Guadalaviar (Teruel), Pedro Muñoz (Ciudad Real). Alcalá la Real (Jaen). Alosno (Huelva), Cabeza la Vaca (Badajoz), Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia), Cestona (Guipúzcoa), Coca (Segovia), Figueres (Girona), Granada, Lazo (Ouense), Ourense city, Riopar (Albacete), Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands),
May: First two weeks of May: Festival de los Patios, Cordoba, often coinciding with flamenco festival. May 1: Tafalla (Navarra) Procession of the 12 Apostles to Ujue, starting at midnight on April 30 at Santa Maria church in Tafalla. The “Apostles” wear long tunics, carry lanterns and walk 17 kms to the Ujue sanctuary in silence. Ubeda (Jaen), procession to the country chapel of the Virgen del Guadalupe y del Gavellar, starting at 2.30 in the morning. May 2: Alhaurin el Grande, procession with two rival brotherhoods. Potes (Santander) Procesion of the Virgen de la Luz from Aniezo to Santo Toribio de Liebana monastery and back in a day, 30 kilometers. First Sunday: Caceres, procession to chapel of the Virgen de la Montaña. Cerro de Andevalo (Huelva), Procession of San Benito, leaves town on Saturday for the saint’s country chapel, with people on horseback and dancers. Sant Feliu de Llobregat (Barcelona) Rose festival. Santa Perpetua de Mogoda (Barcelona) Regional dance festival (sardana, Catalunya’s traditional dance). May 8 (San Miguel) in Frechilla (Palencia), Fuentepelayo (Segovia), Villalba de Duero (Burgos), with typical dances and processions. May 10-15 (aprox), Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja), town on the Road of St. James; the fiestas for their patron saint include several traditional processions. May 11: beginning of fiestas in Lerida, dedicated to their patron saint San Anastasio, celebrated with dances, “giants and big-heads”, processions. Ripoll (Girona), Sunday near May 11 (San Eudaldo, patron saint of town), celebrating country people, handcraft. May 12: Moros y Cristianos in Petrel, Alicante, another re-enactment of the Reconquest. Second Sunday: Oya (Pontevedra), Curro de Valga, first of the traditional Galician fiestas when the semi-wild horses are brought down to down for branding. Soller (Mallorca), Fiestas for Nuestra Señora de la Victoria, commemorating when locals defeated a band of Muslims that landed here during the Reconquest. May 15 (San Isidro), patron of country workers all over Spain and of the city of Madrid (expain that??), often celebrated with bullfights, agricultural festivals, processions to country chapels and regional dances; these fiestas often last several days and sometimes are celebrated on the nearest Sunday instead of May 15. Fiestas in these places among others: Alcanar (Tarragona), Almuradiel (Ciudad Real), Ardales (Malaga), Benavides de Orbigo and Cacabelos (Leon), Cazorla (Jaen), Eibar (Guipúzcoa), Estepona (Malaga), Fuente Tojar (Cordoba), Los Barrios (Cadiz), Mollo (Girona), Nerja (Malaga), Socuellamos (Ciudad Real). May 17, Fiestas de los Pastores (Shepherds’ fiestas), in Almazán (Soria), with typical dance and procession. May 19 Cetina (Zaragoza), unique dance with eight men and the “devil”, in honor of San Juan Lorenzo, another dance with eight children. May 20, Port de la Selva (Girona), traditional dances and a potent alcoholic brew (similar to the Asturian “queimada”), shared among participants. Third Sunday: Altea (Alicante), Moros and Cristianos. La Estrada (Pontevedra) salmon festival. Navahermosa and Hontanar (Toledo), processions leave both towns and meet at the Cruz de Milagro, where it started to rain after a lengthy drought; typical dances, decorated carts and horses. Sorzano (La Rioja), Procession of the Hundred Maidens to a country church where bouquets of holly and rosas are offered to the Virgin, typical dances afterwards. May 22 (Santa Quiteria): Almazora (Castellón), fiestas usually last two weeks around this date, with processions around the town and to the country chapel to bring back the statue of the Saint. Huete (Cuenca) typical dances and music. May 23, Clavijo (La Rioja), anniversary of the Battle of Clavijo, where legend says Saint James appeared the first time to lead Christian troops to victory over the Muslims. May 24 Begone (Lugo), procession to sanctuary of the Virgen de los Milagros, in commemoration of a miracle during French occupation of the early 19th century. Some pilgrims do the pilgrimage barefoot or on their knees in thanks for the Virgin’s help or to fulfill a promise. Last Sunday: Congosto (Leon), virgen of the Peña, starting some days before when the statue is brought to town; the eve of the last day it is returned to the sanctuary and mass celebrated on Sunday. Sanlucar de Barrameda (Cadiz) Fiesta de la Manzanilla (a kind of dry white wine) with typical Andalucian dancing. Variable date: Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz) Horse festival. Cervo (Lugo) “Empanada” festival (sort of cold covered pizza typical of Galicia), Cornellana (Asturias) international salmon festival, includes regional dance and music.
Last days of May – first days of June: Corpus Christi, (Thursday, 60 days after Easter Sunday, often including the days before or after Corpus itself): celebrated all over the country, mainly with processions, frequently on streets carpeted with flowers in designs that look like carpets – in some places the flowers are replaced by colored salt or sawdust. Sometimes this religious festival is accompanied by regional dances, bull festivals, Moros and Cristianos or other traditions that seem more pagan than religious, a mixture that seems odd to foreigners but is fairly frequent in Spain. Some places with either large or unusual Corpus celebrations: Toledo, Arbucias (Girona), Arrecife de Lanzarote (Canary Islands), Benavente (Zamora), Berga (Barcelona, Fuenlabrada de los Montes (Badajoz), Granada, Morella (Castellon), Palencia, Puenteareas (Pontevedra), Sevilla, Sitges (Barcelona), Valencia, Valverde de los Arroyos (Guadalajara).
June: Logroño (La Rioja), June 11, San Bernabé, with regional dances (jota), procession with “giants and big-heads”, Sahagun (Leon) June 10-11, with “capeas” (mock bullfights with young cows), processions and regional “dulzaina” players. June 13 is San Antonio de Padua, with fiestas all over the country, sometims celebrated on nearest weekend: Trevelez (Granada), Moors and Christians fiesta in a pretty mountain town, Frigiliana (Malaga), Jaraiz de la Vera, with regional dances. Night of June 23 is the Night of St. John, similiar to Midsummer’s night, with fiestas all over the country; June 24, too. Most of these fiestas are fire-related, often with somewhat pagan traditions like leaping over the flames or walking across the coals (San Pedro Manrique, Soria). Baños de Cerrato, June 24, mass in the old Visigothic rite (from the early middle ages) in a tiny Visigothic chapel. Coria (Caceres), June 24-27, a bull wanders the town between 4AM and dawn. Frias (Burgos), Sunday nearest to June 24, traditional dance and bowling in the local castle. Soria, days around June 24 for their patron saint, with running of the bulls, traditional dances and more. June 29, Saint Pedro, many towns celebrate both Saint John and Saint Pedro, for a nonstop, weeklong fiesta. Haro (La Rioja) celebrates the famous wine battle on this day. Lequeitio (Vizcaya), dance done on top of a trunk carried on the shoulders of local men. Toro (Zamora), Garlic festival June 28-29, in Zamora city the fiesta includes ceramics.