Spain is famous for its lively celebrations attracting visitors from all over the world. Whatever time of year you visit Spain you can be sure to see a spectacular fiesta unlike any you will experience anywhere else in the world. Here are the most popular festivals not to be missed:
(1) Since Spain is a Catholic country the most important celebration of the year is Semana Santa, “Holy Week” (Easter). It is celebrated during the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Unlike most fiestas, it is a solemn affair. Processions take place every day when each brotherhood carries floats featuring Christ and the Virgin Mary through the streets to the cathedral. The floats are followed by men, women and children dressed in tunics, masks and hoods and are accompanied with slow beating of drums.
(3) La Tomatina, Tomato Fight, (the fourth Wednesday in August). Thousands of people arrive in the streets of Buñol (a small town one hour from Valencia) to throw tomatoes at each other. It lasts for one hour and afterwards the main square is red with a tomato juice river. Despite being banned for several years, the Council allowed it to take place in 1950 and in 2002 it was declared a “Fiesta of International Tourist Interest”.
(4) Las Fallas, Valencia. A 5-day event leading up to St Joseph’s Day (19th March). Each neighbourhood builds giant puppets (ninots) which they then set light to. These may include famous people who they want to make fun of. There are also street parties and processions.
(6) Navidad and Año Nuevo (Christmas and New Year). Christmas is mainly a family event with lots of eating, drinking and going to mass. La Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is more important than Christmas Day. Miniature nativity scenes (un Belén) are more common than Christmas trees and decorations. Turrón, a thick almond nougat is a traditional Christmas sweet.
On New Year’s Eve, (La Noche Vieja), there is an ancient tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight to bring good luck.
(7) El Día de Los Reyes (King’s Day, 6th January) is as important as Christmas in Spain as this is when children receive their presents. The celebrations begin the night before when the 3 Kings parade through the streets throwing sweets to the crowds accompanied by dancers, floats, stilt walkers etc. People eat a “roscón”, a donut-shaped sweetbread covered in cherries and sugar. Whoever finds the plastic toy buried within the dough gets good luck for the following year.
If you are planning to visit Spain and would like to learn how to speak Spanish on holiday at the hotel, in shops and restaurants, Viva Language Services can help you learn a few survival phrases to impress the locals as well as your friends and family.