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Tuesday, September 4, 2007 (read 1100 times)

On Fiestas, Festivos and Puentes...

by Erin

This article was prepared for the English language press in Spain by a don Quijote intern from the UK earlier this year. Some of the fiesta dates vary each year…. so we've included links to handy sites where you read up more about the fiesta and when it takes place…

A Guide to Fiestas and Public Holidays in Spain
The Spaniards' love of noise, colour, dressing up, and generally having a ball is indulged at regular periods throughout the year, thanks to a fixed calendar of public holidays, ferias and fiestas which is strictly observed.

This concept may be a little strange to those of us used to Bank Holiday Mondays being days where the shops are open longer and DIY stores do big business or the sales starting on Boxing Day. However in Spain public holidays still mean exactly that, and, if you're not aware of them, they can catch you out. So write them in your diary and keep them free; nobody does fiesta better than the Spanish " and what better way to spend the day than joining in?

Carnival, celebrated early in February, marked the kick off of Spain's fiesta calendar and, as Easter approaches, there's plenty more to come …

Public Holidays (Festivos)
Across Spain, there are a minimum of 14 official public holidays a year - some observed nationwide and some very locally. If a holiday falls close to a weekend, the Spanish like to make a puente, or bridge, and take the intervening day off too.

The eight national hoildays are:

1st January: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day)
6th April: Viernes Santo (Good Friday)
1st May: Fiesta del Trabajo (Labour Day)
1st August: La Asunción (Feast of the Assumption)
12th October: Día de la Hispanidad (National Day)
1st November: Todos Santos (All Saint's Day)
6th December: Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day)
25th December: Navidad (Christmas Day)

In addition to these eight, the regional governments of the communidades autónomas (Autonomous Communities) set a further four holidays and local councils a further two. Popular ones follow the Catholic religious calendar and include:

6th January: Epifanía (Epiphany) or Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) …when children recieve holiday presents.
5th April: Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday)… the day before Good Friday. Observed everywhere apart from Cataluña and Valencia.
10th June: Corpus Christi. Especially lovely in Toledo.
24th June: Día de San Juan Bautista (Feast of St John the Baptist) … King Juan Carlos' saint's day.
25th July: Día de Santiago Apóstol (Feast of St James the Apostle)… Spain's patron saint.
8th December: La Immaculada Concepción (Feast of the Immaculate Conception)

Fiestas and Ferias
As if that wasn't enough, the Spanish have innumerable fiestas and ferias of varying size throughout the year…from small villages celebrating for a single day to entire cities partying hard for a whole week. Local tourist offices and Spain's main tourism website,, will have details of all events, but some of the truly unmissable ones include:

Las Fallas: Valencia's huge 5 day festival of drinking, dancing and first class firework displays.
Semana Santa: Spain's Holy Week involves moving parades of holy images and huge crowds. Extra special celebrations include those in Seville and the candlelight procession in Santiago de Compostela.
Moros y Cristianos: Parades and "battles " between Christian and Muslim "armies " in Alcoy, near Alicante.
Feria de Abril: A week long feria in Seville after the solemnity of Semana Santa.
Romería de Andújar: Hundreds of thousands of people make a pilgramage to the shrine of the Virgen at Andújar in Andalucia.
Fiestas de San Isidro: Madrid's chance to let its hair down.
Hogueras de San Juan: Midsummer bonfires and fireworks along the south-east coast.
Sanfermines: Pamplona's famous Running of the Bulls.
La Tomatina: A wild tomato throwing festival in Buñol, Valencia.
Festes de la Mercé: Barcelona doesn't miss out on the fun, with a week long party taking over the city.

Blog editor's note: And Salamanca joins in the action with three week of ferias in September….

These are, however, just a glimpse of Spain's packed festival calendar and don't even touch on some of the more local fiestas. If you should get the chance to go to one of these don't pass it up on the grounds that it won't be as fun as some of the larger scale events. The locals can party with the best of them!

Keywords: travel,spanish,spain,holiday,fiesta,culture


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