Spanish Culture & Society

It’s Carnival time in Spain!

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival: PartyWhen is Carnival?

The week leading up to Lent in late February is when Spain celebrates Carnival (Carnaval) when some of the wildest parties take place.

Why is it celebrated?

There are various ideas as to the origins of the Carnival celebration. Some believe the word “Carnival” comes from the term “farewell to the flesh” referring to the excesses which led to Lent. Others believe it is related to the Roman Solstice event, the “Saturnalia” during which people drink and dance to excess.

Read more about the origins behind the Carnival celebrations here. Continue reading

Why you must visit the Alhambra palace, Granada.

La AlhambraWith over two million visitors a year it is easy to see why the Alhambra, known as the “Jewel of Moorish Spain” is well worth a visit. Here are a few good reasons why:

Beautiful location:

The Alhambra is an ancient palace-fortress built by the Arabs in the middle of the fourteenth century which sits on a hilltop overlooking the Andalucian city of Granada with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. You can see the beautiful Alhambra palace from miles around.

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Paisaje Cultural Cafetero – Salamina, Caldas, Colombia

Salamina 0Salamina is a beautiful, colonial town perched on the top of a mountain in the middle of the coffee region of Colombia. It is part of the Cultural Coffee Growing Landscape (Paisaje Cultural Cafetero) declared World Heritage by UNESCO and has also been declared one of the 14 towns that make up the Towns of National Heritage (Pueblos Patrimoniales). Salamina was founded in 1825 and still preserves much of its colonial architecture with wonderfully carved wooden doorways, beautiful balconies decorated with hanging flower baskets and houses built with guadua and bahareque (guadua bamboo, wattle and daub). Continue reading

Las Fallas festival, Valencia (1st – 19th March)

Las FallasValencia’s biggest festival, “Las Fallas” is celebrated every March and dates back to the middle ages. It is a pagan ritual to commemorate the patron Saint Joseph. It is also thought to represent the end of winter and welcome the spring through spectacular pyrotechnical displays, explosions and parades. If you go to this riotous Spanish fiesta, don’t expect to sleep much as there is 24-hour partying and explosions going off throughout the night. Read on to find out what to expect from one of Spain’s most spectacular Spanish festivals. Continue reading

Popular Spanish sport: “Pádel” (Padel tennis)

PadelPádel is a Spanish racket sport which is becoming more and more popular across Spain and other European countries such as Belgium, Austria, France and Italy. It is similar to tennis with a smaller court but the same line markings. Surrounding the court are high walls of glass or solid material. Scoring is similar to tennis and you can play singles or doubles matches.
The racket is more like a large table tennis bat without strings and you serve underhand rather than overhand.

When it was first played in Spain in the 1970s it was mainly played by the upper classes. However, these days it is played by anyone and everyone of any age, making it a game that the whole family can enjoy together. It is thought to be more intense and fun than tennis and perhaps a little easier to play.

Nowadays all the main towns and cities in Spain have “pistas de pádel” (padel courts) with inter-club tournaments and national circuits. The “Federación Internacional de Pádel” was officially formed in 1991 and by 1993 the game was recognised as an official sports category. Continue reading

The 12 lucky grapes, “Las doce uvas de la suerte”: New Year tradition in Spain

Why do people eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Spain? (Las doce uvas de la suerte)

I have been lucky enough to experience New Year celebrations in Spain several times in recent years and it is very different to here in the UK! The most unique part of a Spanish New Year is the tradition of eating 12 grapes as the clock chimes midnight – las doce uvas de la suerte. In this blog post we will look at the origins of this Spanish New Year tradition.

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The Mexican Revolution

Exploring the history behind the national holidays of a country is a great way to learn about its culture and the historic events that have shaped modern times. In this short article we will take a look at a few historic events related to the Mexican Revolution, as well as some of the most iconic events related to the celebration of this holiday in the present. Continue reading

Fiestas de Quinceaños

In these times of never-ending changes, sometimes it is nice to have a wake up call and take a look at the traditions that are part of the culture of another country in order to remind us that human nature is the same all over the world. Let’s take a look at the “Fiesta de Quince Años” (Fifteen Year Old’s Party) in Mexico, and we will share a few videos so you can see what these parties look like.

A “Fiesta de Quince Años” (also known as “Quinceañera”) is a special birthday party to celebrate a girl´s 15th birthday in Latin America (Yes, 15 is “quince” in Spanish, you can learn the rest of the numbers here). It is a tradition that is constantly changing to accommodate modern music styles and fads, but it´s underlying structure remains the same, it´s just the music and clothes that have changed over the years. Continue reading

Interview with British expat living in Ronda, Spain.

The following interview with British expat Frank Hughes, who has recently relocated to Spain, gives a real insight in to what it is really like to live there. It is a worthwhile read for anyone who is planning to move to Spain.

Where are you from originally and where in Spain do you live?
I am from Birmingham and live in Peterborough and in Spain in Ronda, Andalucia.

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“El Día de la Candelaria” – a popular Mexican tradition (2nd February)

Hi, in this short post we will talk a little about the Mexican tradition known as “El Día de la Candelaria” and we will take a look at a few phrases in Spanish that may be used in this context.
“El Día de la Candelaria” is a very popular tradition in Mexico because it involves getting together with people you like and eating free “tamales” on the 2nd of February. For those who don’t know, a “tamal” is a traditional dish made of corn-based dough which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. A “tamal” may be filled with spiced meat, cheese or vegetables.
But what is this celebration about? Why free food? you may be asking. Let me explain.

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