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.
Hottest for these three months: Carnival! In 2017 Ash Wednesday is Wednesday March 1, so most celebrations will start on the preceding Friday BUT Cadiz celebrates February 23-March 5 and Tenerife February 19-March 5; some villages in Cantabria and Galicia have entirely different dates (Laza in Ourense, for example). See post below at the end of February and learn more about Carnival history and other Spanish Carnivals. http://www.bridgetospain.com/carnival/ Madrid celebrates on the traditional dates, usually with a big parade on Saturday night (umm. not necessarily for kids, some naughty themes) and the fun Burial of the Sardine to end the festivities. Watch for separate post about Madrid’s Carnival as information appears.
Also hot: Las Fallas in Valencia (March 19). Some would put this before Carnival……
Hot in Madrid: Blessing of the Animals, Yearly event on San Anton day, when owners take their animals to be blessed. The priest who has done the honors in past years seems to have a lot of fun shaking holy water on pets, mostly dogs, some cats and a few other kinds. Pet owners fancy up their critters, sometimes including clothes or cute bows, dogs and dog owners greet friends they know from walks then line up patiently for their turn. You can also get little cookies (different line) called panecillos de San Anton, which supposedly attract good fortune if you keep one in your wallet during the year. Frequent masses during the day, and afternoon procession with pets and usually some working animals (police horses or dogs). In recent years activities have been expanded, check Hot News Madrid to see more details. When and where: January 17. San Anton church at Hortaleza 63. Procession usually starts around 5pm.
Watch for separate Easter post later on….
New Year’s is celebrated with parties like other places in the world, though in Spain you should eat twelve grapes on the twelve strokes of midnight to ensure good luck in the new year. This can be done if you are fast, neat and don’t start laughing at your friends with chipmunk-cheeks full of grapes. It helps to hold your stash of grapes right next to your mouth. The jury is out on whether or not it is cheating to peel and seed the grapes ahead of time.
King’s day, January 6, the traditional day for putting gifts in children’s shoes, and the end of the extended holiday season in Spain. This day is celebrated in a number of towns with King’s Day celebrations: Cañada (Alicante), Caudete (Albacete), Pamplona, Sanguesa (Navarra), sometimes with religious theater or traditional dances.
January: January 1-2, commemorating the arrival of the Catholic Monarchs in the city (1492), the end of the “Reconquest”; January 1, Palencia, fiesta of the Baptism of Jesus. January 8, Valverde del Jucar (Cuenca), best day of a longer fiesta that includes reciting poetry that has been handed down for generations, processions and a typical “Christians and Moors” celebration. Around January 17, San Antonio Abad (patron of animals): La Puebla (Mallorca), with bonfires and dances; Alcudia de Guadix (Granada) with bonfires and a tradition of circling the saint’s country church nine times; Benicasim, bonfires in honor of San Antonio and Santa Agueda; Burgos, livestock market and blessing of the animals; Jadraque (Guadalajara) with traditional dances and luminaries organized by the saint’s association; Lleida, procession of three carts that circle a cross in the square three times, ending with blessing the animals; Manlleu (Barcelona) the Candle Dance, done in the afternoon of the saint’s day; Moreda (Asturias), mass in the saint’s country church; Palma de Mallorca, horseback procession to request protection for all animals (similiar celebrations in other parts of Mallorca); Sastago (Zaragoza), bonfire the eve of the saint’s day, raffle of a pig to collect money for the fiesta; Villanueva de Alcolea (Castellón), with horses jumping over bonfires and a horse race. January 20, San Sebastián, Acehuche (Cáceres), where men dress up in skins to symbolize the wild beasts that legend says didn’t harm the saint; Caniles (Granada), groups of young men fight over the banner that traditionally leads the procesion; Los Arcos (Navarra), procession to the saint’s country church, with a traditional meal of salt cod; San Sebastián, drumming processions from the eve to the end of the saint’s day; Teror (Gran Canaria), singing traditional rhymes on the steps of the church, accompanied by old instruments. January 22: San Vicente de la Barquera (Santander), fiestas of the town’s patron saint. January 25,Conversion of San Pablo, San Pedro de Ribas (Barcelona) and Boltaña (Huesca). January 30, San Lesmes, Burgos, when the mayor offers a candle to the saint.
February: Surprised at all the February fiestas? This is the big winter fiesta month (like August in the summer), a great way to perk up an otherwise dreary month. San Cecilio, Feb 1: Granada, patron saint celebrated partly on Sacromonte // La Candelaria / Las Candelas, Feb 2: Alcaudete de la Jara (Toledo), where locals dressed as long-ago soldiers parade through town and do a typical dance in each square; Arroyo de la Luz (Caceres), candlelight procession; Caleruega (Burgos), procession and regional dances, sometimes merges into Santa Agueda (Feb 5); Miranda del Castañar (Salamanca), two candles, the Virgen’s for the elderly and the Child’s for the youth, it’s bad luck for the group whose candle goes out; Torrox (Malaga), bonfires in all the farms with ancestral songs; Valls (Tarragona), with folklore and “giants and big-heads” typical of this kind of fiesta (people dressed up inside these self-explanatory costumes). // San Blas, Feb 3: Bocairente (Valencia), “Moors and Christians” fiesta in honor of patron saint, with locals dressed up in one of the two groups, processions and mock battles, as well as a falla-like statue; Burriana (Castellon), wine-fountain; Idiazabal (Guipúzcoa), with all kinds of Basque dances, sports and games; Montiel (Ciudad Real), typical kind of omelette, especially celebrated by the young; Peralta (Navarra), sing the “Aurora” to patron saint at dawn. Procession with “giants and big-heads” and a typicalkind of fried doughnut; Sax (Alicante), “Moors and Christians” festival, where the processions are done with an odd little hop; Villar del Arzobispo (Valencia), “San Blas bread” is made in all the houses, blessed then shared with friends, family and domestic animals (they need protection too), traditional dance in the square. // Santa Agueda, Feb. 5: Zamarramala (Segovia), where women take over for the duration, in memory of the time when by thir bravery and cleverness the Moors were defeated. Procession, typical dances, burning a straw doll; Miranda del Castañar (Salamanca), the women in charge of the fiesta pass the flag over the heads of the participants. Beautiful traditional dress from this area!! // First Sunday: Perafita (Barcelona): “Candelera” is celebrated here on a different date, centered around horses. Procession in the morning with participation of all the horses that will compete in the afternoon races. Regional dances. // Las Marzas, Feb 28: Baños de Valdearados (Burgos) Typical songs sung at midnight. //
Variable date in February or March: Carnival: Celebrated all over the country but the showiest are in: Cadiz and “the” Carnaval in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, both with a fully array of processions. Everyone dresses up; irony and clever criticism dominate for this weeklong festivals. Other Carnavals held in: Ciudad Rodrigo, centered on bullfighting; Lanz (Navarra), with traditional characters and two different straw figures that are “mistreated” then destroyed. Laza (Orense), again with typical characters that act up and out during the fiestas, at the end of the period the “testament” telling local history over the previous year. San Fructuoso de Bages (Barcelona), the “Rice Festival” is celebrated on Carnaval Sunday, when a huge paella is shared among residents and visitors. Villanueva de la Vera (Caceres), Pero Palo, a life-size cloth doll with a wooden head that may represent a long-ago bandit or the very devil; it’s paraded through the strets for three days accompanied by drum and a typical song. At the end of Carnaval is a symbolic trial and surprise! Pero Palo is sentenced to be destroyed.
March 1: Ampudia de Campos (Palencia) “Angel Day”, specially for children who have a picnic next to a country church. // 4: Javier (Navarra), religios services held in the castle March 4-12; on the main day (variable), pilgrims arrive from all over Navarra and neighboring provinces. // San Raimundo, Mar. 15: Fitero (Navarra), lasting 3-4 days, usually including a weekend, bullfights. // San Jose’s Eve, Mar. 19, Alcala la Real (Jaen), with bonfires, bands with drums and trumpets. // San Jose, Mar 19: Valencia, the famous “Fallas”, where about 300 huge paper mache statues strung with fireworks are burned on the big night. This tradition comes from the sweeping out of carpinters workshops on “Saint Joseph’s Day”, burning the scraps of wood and sawdust from the previous year. Valencia’s fallas usually last a full week, ending on San Jose with the burning and a truly astonishing fireworks display. Similar fiestas in smaller towns in this region: Alcira, Benetuser, Jativa, Moncada (all in Valencia), Benidorm and Denia in nearby Alicante. Other fiestas on San Jose: Alcaucin (Malaga) where San Jose is asked to send rain to this agricultural area – supposedly the saint hears and sends rain on his day most years. Briviesca (Burgos), the day when locals would find their sweetheart; today they still give carnations and a typical almond sweet. // Third Sunday: Santurce (Vizcaya) Marks a weeklong festival of traditional choral music. // Fourth Sunday: Obejo (Cordoba) Dance of the Swords, done in honor of San Benito to a march played on string instruments, accordion and tamborine.