In December, with the traditional display of nativity scenes, one of the most important days in the calendar is the traditional midnight mass which takes place on Christmas Eve. In January the Three Wise Men Parade, brings smiles to children’s faces, and the city of San Sebastian will celebrate La Tamborrada, one of its most famous festivals. February brings us the Carnival, a festivity that fills many places in Spain with fun such as the Carnivals of Cádiz (Andalusia) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands).
Come and experience them for yourself.
Yecla, Murcia. 5th – 16th December
This fiesta dates from the 17th century, and includes the procession with the statue of the Virgin down from the Sanctuary and up again.
The event begins with the Blessing on 5 December. In the evening, squads of soldiers taking part in the fiesta invite local residents to join in the celebrations. The opening speech, the Kissing of the Flag, various cultural acts, the floral offering, the procession down from the Sanctuary with the Virgin and her subsequent return, go to form the rest of the programme. Participants wear a regulation uniform of a black hat with corners. Salvos in honour of the Virgin are shot with arquebuses.
La Inmaculada Concepción. 8th of December
In 1644 the feast of the Immaculate Conception was declared, throughout the Spanish Empire, and as a Holy day for the whole Catholic Church in 1708 by order of Pope Clement XI.
On December 8th, Spain celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception as a national holiday. During the celebration of this festival, Spanish priests have the privilege of wearing blue chasubles. This privilege was granted by the Holy See in 1864, in gratitude for the defence of the faith in Spain.
Labastida, Álava. 24thDecember
Traditional midnight mass. Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas Day, a widely celebrated holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a culturally significant celebration for most of the Western world and is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas.
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. 24th and 25th December
Normally families get together for dinner and lunch on these two days, and prepare traditional dishes such as lamb and sea bream along with season desserts such as “turrón” (rich sweet made with almonds), “polvorones” (crumbly shortbread) and marzipan.
At this time of year the streets of cities, towns and villages are decked with colour, lights and Christmas decorations, creating a magical atmosphere.
New Year’s Eve. 31st December
In Spain, 31 December is a very special celebration, where the fun and partying go on well into the early hours. If you want to get the year off to a good start, then come and celebrate New Year’s Eve in Spain. You will have a great time eating the traditional “lucky grapes”… And the rest of the night too!
The eating of grapes is the high point of New Year’s Eve. In fact, the striking of the clock is broadcast live on television throughout Spain. On this day, family or friends usually get together for a delicious dinner and then the twelve grapes. In many villages, towns and cities, people head to squares or other emblematic places with a clock to eat them together and share the last minutes of the “old” year. If you would like to take part, head for the local tourist office for full details
The magic of the Three Wise Men. 5th & 6th January
To ensure smiles on the children’s faces at Christmas, nothing better than the Three Wise Men (also known as “The Three Kings”) Parade held on 5th January, just the day before the feast of The Three Kings.
In Spain it is Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar who bring Christmas presents to children who have been good during the year. After writing a letter, in which they tell the Kings with presents they would like, the long-awaited day finally arrives. Their camels loaded with presents go through the streets handing out sweets. When night falls, children go to bed early to wait for Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar to come in through the window and leave presents in their shoes.
Feast of Sant Antoni Abad, Mallorca. 17th January
Sant Antoni Abad is the patron saint of animals. The eve of St Antoni Abad’s feast day (on 16 January) is celebrated in several towns on the island. It is a daytime festival even though it often continues late into the night. The festival focuses on the “dimonis” (devils) who rise out of hell to take over the town and have fun with the people on the streets. Bonfires are lit when the sun sets and people dance around signing popular songs. Sa Pobla is the town with the greatest tradition of celebrating the Feast of Sant Antoni Abad.
On the feast day itself, January 17th, floats and all kinds of animals parade through the towns. They gather at the town squares, where the town priest blesses them. It is one of the most typical festivals of Mallorca and offers a great attraction for visitors.
La Tamborrada, San Sebastián. 19th – 20th January
This is one of San Sebastian’s most famous festivals. It is known for its high decibels, with crowds of drummers marching around the streets all day and night.
At midnight on the dot, the parade starts just after the major opens the event by raising the city’s flag. The quiet streets of San Sebastian become extremely noisy with the beats of the drums and the rhythmical sound of the brass bands. The next morning, the feast day of San Sebastian, the “Tamborrada infantil” (Children’s Drumming Ceremony) is also celebrated.
According to tradition, the drum parade commemorates a time when the city was ruled by Napoleon’s soldiers, who marched through its streets on a daily basis.
Moors and Christians Fiesta, Bocairent (Valencia). 2nd – 5th February
During the first week in February, Bocairent, in the province of Valencia, celebrates its Moors and Christians festivity in honour of Saint Blas, patron of the town. This particular Moors and Christians fiesta is one of the oldest and best in Spain. Fireworks, paso doble music and bands, spectacular parades, processions and the deafening sound of gunpowder are the main ingredients of this colourful six-day fiesta. The highlight is the Entrà, when over 2,000 people participate in an amazing parade of floats.
Feast of Santa Eulàlia, Barcelona. 12th - 15th February
The Santa Eulàlia festival programme in Barcelona has more than a hundred fun activities of all kinds, but mostly for children. The activities include street parades with giants and other fantasy figures, human castles, story-telling, puppets, family workshops, talks, concerts and many other events are on the programme for the festival.
Other traditional Catalan festival events include "castellers" human castle building, sardana
dancing and "correfoc" fire-runs. Music plays a very important part in this festival and throughout the festival music schools, choirs and children's orchestras usually perform around the city.
Carnivals in Spain
Uninhibited humour, parodies and rejoicing invade the streets of Spain's cities and villages. For their originality, beauty and spectacle do not miss the carnivals of Cádiz, in Andalusia, and of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, both have been declared of International Tourist Interest and their world fame is well deserved.
Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. 26th February – 9th March
Rhythm, colour, flamboyance, luxury and of course the most brilliant spectacle. The Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is the most “Brazilian” of all the Spanish carnivals, and it is famous all over the world for its popular flavour. For fifteen days, the streets of the city come alive with joy, freedom and extravagance.
The gala to elect the Carnival Queen, one of the carnival’s main events, is held on the Wednesday of the first week of festivities. In this spectacular competition, all the candidates parade in all their glamorous finery on a 1,200 metre square stage wearing the most fantastic costumes, which can weigh more than a hundred kilos. Once the queen has been elected, the parade announcing the start of the Carnival takes place on the Friday: thousands of people and dozens of musical groups fill the streets for hours in a breathtaking multi-coloured chain of merrymaking and devil-may-care joy.
Carnival of Cádiz. 27th February - 9th March
Cádiz is the carnival of troupes, choirs and chirigotas: songs laden with irony and criticism composed by the different groups that participate in the fiesta. The carnival takes place around the old quarter, creating a contagious atmosphere of liberty and fun. Do not forget the Piñata Sunday parade, a procession in which joy and good humour take possession of children and adults alike.