Spain is a country that likes to party like there’s no tomorrow. And when tomorrow does come there’s usually yet another party to prepare for and enjoy. The Spanish probably let their hair down more frequently than any other country on Earth. Every year there are hundreds of fiestas, parades, and carnivals that are celebrated with gusto and vigor in every town, city, village, and hamlet. Here are three of the biggest and most popular.
1. Semana Santa (Holy Week)
During Semana Santa Spain’s halo shines brighter than usual. A devoutly Catholic country, it puts more into its Easter celebrations than many others. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday there are lavish processions in almost every town. Statues of saints are carried on floats, some depicting scenes of Christ’s passion. Flowers, candles, elaborate costumes, and incense make these processions a moving experience, whether you are religious or not. And though the fiesta is taken very seriously there is also much frivolity with bars open all day and night.
2. Moros Y Cristianos (Moors and Christians)
Muskets roar, fireworks pop, bands play loudly in plazas, streets are decked out like the Middle Ages, and residents don magnificent suits of armour and costumes. Moors and Christians is a wild, colorful and spectacular affair celebrated on different days depending on the region, and in some places the three day party can last for five days or more. The fiesta commemorates the historic battles between the Arabs and the Christians over who would rule of the country.
Typically the fiesta starts early morning with a procession of both armies, each one trying to outdo the other with their outlandish costumes. Then there are mock verbal attacks and battles, all to the accompaniment of music. Finally there is homage to a location’s patron saint, in whose name the battles were fought. As with many other Spanish fiestas the bars and cafes are open well into the early hours of the morning.
3. Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings)
This is the feast of the Epiphany when the three kings arrived in Bethlehem. As well as benefiting from Santa’s generosity, Spanish children wake up on the 6th January to find that the kings have left them some presents as well. In fact if it was put to the vote, the man in the red suit would come second best to the royal trio as can be seen in the processions on the evening of the 5th when the kings parade on huge, decorated floats, throwing sweets to the crowds. From around 5pm to 7pm in most Spanish towns and villages children are either jumping higher than they ever have before, or are diving to the ground to collect as many sweets as possible. Some enterprising families bring along umbrellas and turn them upside down in an attempt to catch a generous bounty.
Photo of Spanish fiesta, Valencia, Spain by Alex Layzell