Spanish celebrations

Top 6 Spanish Celebrations You Need To Experience

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Top 6 Spanish Celebrations You Have To Experience Once In Your Lifetime

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Spanish celebrations, or festivals, are one of the most insane traditions you can ever experience in your life. Whether it is about tomatoes, bulls, patios, or Easter, they all share the same: craziness and a lot of fun. I am giving you insights into the best Spanish celebrations that you should definitely experience once in your lifetime. Ready to plan your next vacation in Spain to be part of one of the famous top 6 Spanish celebrations?

 

 

List Of The Top 6 Spanish Celebrations

  1. La Tomatina
  2. Las Fallas
  3. San Fermin
  4. La Semana Santa
  5. Feria de Abril in Sevilla
  6. Festival de Patios Córdoba

 

 

1. LA TOMATINA

If you are in Valencia in August, you might consider going to a small village, Buñol. This is where our first Spanish celebration, La Tomatina, takes place on the last Wednesday of August every year.

It’s probably the craziest festival in Spain, if not worldwide. As the title suggests, it is all about tomatoes. Yes, you heard it right. The participants are throwing tomatoes at each other.

It’s like a tomato battle in the centre of the town. In the beginning, a huge truck drives through the streets with people on it, throwing tomatoes on the participants. If you desire to spoil your crazy soul, then come and swim in the tomato sauce on the streets of Buñol.

 

How Do You Celebrate La Tomatina?

The battle starts at 12pm and takes an hour. During that time, trucks full of tomatoes are driving through the streets. You can throw tomatoes on other participants, but consider smashing the tomato in your hand before. It might hurt someone when you throw the thick tomato at him/her. Watch all directions, if you still can, because inhabitants will be throwing tomatoes from their balconies onto you, too.

I said, if you still can, watch. Well, you’ll be fully covered by tomatoes. It might be a good idea if you bring swimming glasses. That way, your eyes won’t hurt, and you might see better what’s going on. I can’t stress enough how insane this Spanish festival is. You need to experience yourself. It’s definitely the craziest tradition out of all top 6 Spanish celebrations.

Spanish celebrations La Tomatina
Covered by tomatoes at La Tomatina festival: Spainish celebrations

 

La Tomatina Festival Origin

The origin of La Tomatina dates back to 1945 when some young people came to the square to see the parade of Giants and Big-Head figures. As the young people were so energetic and wanted to stand out of the crowd, they pushed one participant, who fell down on the ground. The guy got super angry. There was a vegetable stall nearby, so he grabbed some and started to throw it on the crazy young people. Other people decided to contribute and started throwing tomatoes at others. That is how La Tomatina started, and the town, Buñol, has kept its tradition until today.

 

Quick Facts About La Tomatina

WHERE: Buñol, near Valencia (35 minutes by car, 1hour by train), Spain

WHEN: Last Wednesday of August, every year

WHAT: Throwing tomatoes and swimming in the tomato sauce on the streets

WHAT TO BRING: clothes that can get very dirty, swimming glasses, don’t bring anything else, there is no place to put your stuff unless you go by car or by bus, where you can store your things.

 

La Tomatina: My Personal Advice For You

Honestly, this tradition is too crazy. The streets are crowded with participants. When the truck drives through, everybody on the street is pushed towards the walls. So imagine, you are smashed by the crowd, and I honestly couldn’t breathe from time to time.

Besides, there are inhabitants throwing tomatoes on you from above. I just want to be sincere in here. If you aren’t as crazy, probably skip this festival or just watch it from behind. But if you really want to experience it, it’s just an hour and being part of it is a very unique experience.

Just to let you know that it might get to the point when you don’t enjoy it that much. It’s definitely not suitable for families with children.

 

If you want to be part of La Tomatina and also visit Valencia as part of your visit to Spain, check out my Spain itinerary to get inspired on what to see and do in the city.

 

 

2. LAS FALLAS

Every year, in the middle of March, Valencia’s streets are converted into a jungle of giant ninots. These ninots are generally named ‘fallas.’ Artists work hard throughout the day and night, on the 15th March, to put them in Valencia’s street corners.

The next day, judges decide which ninot will win the award of being the best one. This ninot obtains the status of ‘ninot induldant’ and will be the only one to be saved. Are you asking saved from what?

Well, the rest of the fallas are burned in a fire the last night of the festival. Imagine, more than 800 figures are built throughout Valencia, and only one is saved from burning.

Welcome to Las Fallas Spanish celebrations.

Las Fallas Spanish celebrations
Las Fallas (ninots) on the streets of Valencia city: Spainish celebrations

 

What Happens During Las Fallas?

La Virgen Falla ...
Falla de La Virgen

On the 16th March, people, whose ‘falla’ belong to the most impressive, walk towards the Plaza de Ayuntamiento (Town Hall Square in Valencia) to pick up their prices. They are dressed up in authentic dresses and walk in commissions led by musicians playing music and singing. Besides, they are carrying flowers.

Plaza de Ayuntamiento is the home of the giant ninot, Virgen de los Desamparados, the patron of Valencia. The whole structure is 15-metres high, and the commissions bring flowers to build up this giant falla. This celebration is called ‘Flower Ofrenda’, and it takes place on the 17th and 18th of March.

Las Fallas ...
The commissions in traditional dresses walking towards Plaza de Ayuntamiento and carrying flowers to build the La Virgen Falla

 

La Crema Celebration

Finally, on the 19th March, the expected Crema is happening. That is the night when all fallas are burnt in the fire. First of all, small fallas are burnt around 10:00pm and after, they start burning the bigger ones.

 

La Crema de La Virgen

The final celebration is held at the Plaza de Ayuntamiento, where you’ll watch the giant Virgen de los Desamparados being set on fire at 12:30am. If nothing else, this Spanish celebration reflects how much Valencians love fire. Maybe you have never seen so much fire in your life. You should definitely experience Las Fallas tradition.

 

Las Fallas Festival Origin

Traditionally, the old carpenters used to burn things they no longer needed after winter. They were mainly burning woods, which they used as a light during winter. This way, they prepared themselves for spring, a new period of life, and greeted nice weather.

As they threw more and more things into the fire, it started to look like a giant human being. Valencians made a tradition out of it. Since that time, they create these vast ninots, which they eventually burn. I told you that Spanish celebrations are unique and crazy.

 

Quick Facts About Las Fallas

WHERE: Valencia, Spain

WHEN: Starts on the 15th March (artists putting las Fallas into the streets)

On the 16th March – judges decide which falla is the best and obtains the status of ‘falla induldant’

17th and 18th March – commissions in traditional dresses walking through streets of Valencia playing music and singing + Ofrenda takes place at Plaza de Ayuntamiento (bringing flowers to La Virgen)

On the 19th March evening – burning all Fallas, except the ‘falla induldant’

On the 20th March at 12:30am – La Virgen is set on fire

WHAT: Watch the beautiful art of Las Fallas being burnt in the streets of Valencia

WHAT TO BRING: nothing special, but a camera for sure

 

Las Fallas: Personal Experience

Unlike La Tomatina, the Las Fallas festival is relatively peaceful (except for the fire), and I highly recommend visiting it. You don’t have to be afraid of anything.

It’s one of the loveliest Spanish celebrations. The commissions are walking through the streets and singing, and people accompany them as well. It’s a cheerful celebration worth being part of. Also suitable for families with kids.

 

 

3. SAN FERMIN

San Fermin is a real week-long traditional Spanish festival in Pamplona city. It’s a celebration full of dancing, parades, music, and traditional festival figures. But the core of this festival is Running of the Bulls. It’s held annually and starts on the 6th of July.

If you are visiting, dress up in white – white pants and a T-shirt, and put on a red scarf. This is the traditional outfit. You might feel pretty weird if you come in other, colorful clothes. You’ll probably be the only one among all white and red people around. If you don’t have clear white, then bring something white as it can possibly get.

Spanish people from many corners of Spain and visitors from other countries come full of excitement to kick the fiesta off. They head to the main square and raise their red scarfs for the fiesta to officially start. The streets of Pamplona turn into a real mass full of celebrations for this week.

Each night, the day’s celebration ends with fireworks at 11pm. However, nobody wants the fiesta to be over, so many people just continue having fun until the early morning.

Encierro San Fermin Spanish celebrations
Streets of Pamplona city during the San Fermin: Spainish celebrations

 

Encierro – Running Of The Bulls

The most important part of the whole festival is the Encierro, as they call it, or the bulls’ running. The Encierro starts at 8:00am every day, when they let the bulls run through Pamplona’s streets, and many participants run with them.

The streets are encircled with wooden racks so that the bulls run straight away and not to the participants watching them. The running route is 800 metres long, and if you really want to see the bulls running, you need to come and secure your spot along the way very early in the morning.

There are crowds of people, which will barely let you go closer to the wooden racks to see the bulls if you come too late.

San Fermin Spanish Festivals ...
Encierro – running of the bulls during San Fermin, Spanish celebrations

 

What Happens On San Fermin?

The running route is not that long, and the whole Encierro takes only a few minutes. Bulls are running fast, so you’ll have a few seconds to spot them on the way. The Encierro officially starts with a bell sound in the middle of the city, and bulls run through the street directly to the bullring, where it ends.

Thousands of participants run together with the bulls. This event has already caused many injuries, but luckily not serious ones. Since 1910, the festival has recorded 15 fatalities. The crucial thing for the runner is not to fall down.

In the afternoon, people go to the bullring to watch the bullfights, another major part of the fiesta.

The festival ends at the end of the week in the same square where it started. Participants resemble again, raise their red scarfs again, and shout:

‘Pobre de mi, pobre de mi que se han acabado las fiestas de San Fermin.’ In English, it means: ‘Poor me, poor me that the San Fermin celebrations are over.’

 

Why Is San Fermin Celebrated?

This celebration is held in honor of San Fermin, the first bishop of Pamplona, back in the 12th century. That time, it commemorated the martyrdom of San Fermin, and the fiestas were entirely religious with vespers and masses. Poor people were given lunch at the square.

In the 14th century, the fiesta was enriched by cattle fairs and bullfights. Many people came for the fiesta and celebrated San Fermin, watching Jesuits performing a play called ‘Comedy and Tragedy of the blessed San Fermin.’

Since then, every year, the Spanish have enhanced this festival with many activities such as dancing, singing, and fireworks, which has made it look like it does nowadays.

 

San Fermin Spanish festivals ...
Me visiting San Fermin fiestas

Quick Facts About San Fermin

WHERE: Pamplona, Spain

WHEN: from 6th July until 14th July, every year

WHAT: Running of the bull, bullfights, dancing, drinking, eating, and celebrating life

WHAT TO BRING: white pants with a white T-shirt and a red scarf, clothes that can get dirty because the streets get messy.

 

San Fermin: Personal Experience & Suggestion

San Fermin festival gets pretty messy (but La Tomatina is still worse in these terms). The crowds of people make an abnormal mess on the streets, and the streets alone are bustling.

Everybody is shouting, and people get very drunk. The Encierro (running of the bulls) is pretty tricky to spot unless you stand next to the wooden racks from the early morning. So well, I was excited to experience this festival, but I was also slightly disappointed.

Mainly because of the drunk people and mess on the streets, which can really deteriorate the entire atmosphere. It’s still nice to experience, and I don’t regret I could have been part of it. I just want to be honest with you to prepare you for the worse parts.

If it’s something that you really want to see, then nothing should hold you back. It’s just another crazy Spanish celebration. If you have a family with kids, I don’t recommend you come here.

 

 

4. LA SEMANA SANTA

Semana Santa (Easter Week) is one of the few religious Spanish festivals celebrated in many Spanish cities, but mainly in Andalusia, where it originated. It’s a week-long celebration of Easter, remembering the stories of the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ. Except, the Spanish add a little bit of flavor into it. They celebrate it in a big style.

 

What Happens During La Semana Santa?

Each day, processions are performing a particular story from the Bible. Or an event that was happening in the past during Easter. The main characters depicting the story are so-called ‘costaleros,’ who walk through the streets towards a church in the city.

They are accompanied by ‘nazarenos,’ who carry candles or wooden crosses. These are dressed up in traditional robes covering their whole body, which gives the entire event a mysterious atmosphere. In the past, people who were confessing their sins were also wearing these costumes.

Many people celebrate Easter, watching these processions and celebrations, and commemorating the crucified and resurrected Jesus this way. It gives you the feeling of being back in the time when it was all actually happening.

 

So whether you are religious or not, this Spanish festival will, for sure, fascinate you.

The liveliest and best Semana Santa celebrations are definitely in Sevilla and Málaga. But you can find a smaller version all over Spain, in Madrid, Barcelona, Córdoba or Salamanca.

Semana Santa Sevilla
Nazarenos at Semana Santa celebrations in Sevilla: Spainish celebrations

 

Quick Facts About Semana Santa

WHERE: Sevilla and Malaga, Spain

WHEN: during Easter week, every year

WHAT: The Spanish tell and perform stories of Easter and Jesus Christ being crucified and resurrected on the streets

WHAT TO BRING: nothing special, but a good mood

 

Semana Santa: My Suggestion For You

Semana Santa is a culturally enriching experience, and I highly recommend you come and see it. You can specifically plan your Spain holidays for the dates when Semana Santa is held in one of the cities. Sevilla has the most popular and enriching one. It’s also one of the least Spanish celebrations, which might be the most interesting for kids. They’ll like it for sure.

 

If you want to see Semana Santa and plan to visit Sevilla or other cities in Andalusia, check out my southern Spain itinerary for sightseeing options and ideas.

Alternatively, you can get some inspiration for Andalusia (the largest Spanish autonomous community) and its highlights in my Spain Travel Guide.

 

 

5. FERIA DE ABRIL IN SEVILLA

The Feria de Abril belongs to the Spanish celebrations, which only take place in Sevilla, two weeks after the Semana Santa festival. It’s full of parades, people dressed up in their traditional costumes dancing on the streets, singing, riding horses, and a lot of food.

There are several activities throughout the week. One of the most famous are ‘sevillanas’, flamenco dancers. Watch the men dressed in their traditional costumes and women in their gypsy dresses passionately dancing on the streets of Sevilla.

Besides, don’t forget to drink the local sherry liquor and dance with them. It’s all about celebrating life, beautiful Spanish traditions, drinking, and eating delicious tapas.

Spanish celebrations Feria de Abril Sevilla
Atmosphere of Feria de Abril in Sevilla: Spainish celebrations

 

Feria De Abril Origin

Back in 1848, a businessman with his wife decided to organize an annual fair in Sevilla in April. The authorities of the city gave him permission to do so. Since then, Sevilla has kept the tradition of hosting this fair every year.

 

Quick Facts About Feria De Abril

WHERE: Sevilla, Spain

WHEN: two weeks after Easter, annually

WHAT: celebrating life on the streets of Sevilla, dancing, watching parades, horse carriages, eating tapas

WHAT TO BRING: nothing special, just a smile

 

Feria De Abril: A Few Comments For You

Feria de Abril is a fantastic festival. It perfectly reflects the Andalusian culture and spirit. Be part of it. It’s also nice for kids.

Streets are super lively and everybody just celebrates life. Maybe you can come for the Semana Santa, then stay two weeks in Spain, exploring the highlights, and then come back in the end of your itinerary to Sevilla to experience the Feria de Abril.

 

 

6. FESTIVAL DE PATIOS CÓRDOBA

Since Córdoba’s temperatures can get more than 40°C in summer, the locals have found their own way to handle this. They have built patios (courtyards) in the middle parts of their houses. You usually walk through them when entering the house here in Andalucia.

People decorate the patios with flowers and put a fountain in the middle. It feels like being in a garden. The plants in their patios give locals the feeling of freshness and help them handle the hot temperature.

You’ll find the patios almost everywhere in Córdoba. They are mainly in the Alcazar Viejo district, around the San Lorenzo church and la Magdalena, and in the Jewish quarter. The patios have become a crucial part of another Spanish celebration.

The Town Hall of Córdoba has been organizing the patios festival since 1921. It takes place in the first week of May. Locals decorate their patios and paint their houses to show their art off and compete against each other for the best-looking patio in Córdoba.

The winners are awarded prizes at the end of the week. Come and see these beautiful patios, watch dancers dancing on Córdoba’s streets, drinking local wine, and eating tapas.

Cordoba patios celebrations
Decorated patios (courtyards) and streets in Córdoba

 

Quick Facts About Festival De Patios

WHERE: Cordoba, Spain

WHEN: first week of May, every year

WHAT: Competition of locals for having the most beautiful patio (courtyard) in Cordoba

WHAT TO BRING: nothing special, enjoy looking at those beautiful patios

 

Festival De Patios: My Recommendation

This festival is charming and calmer. Again, it perfectly reflects the local culture. I highly recommend you see it. It’s also suitable for families with children.

If you need more sightseeing tips for Córdoba and places to stay, get my southern Spain itinerary full of information and admission tickets.

 

 

More Tips For Spain Travel

These are the top 6 Spanish celebrations and traditions you should add to your travel bucket list. Some of them tend to convert the city into a real mess (La Tomatina and San Fermin). On the contrary, some keep their calm and relaxed atmosphere (Feria de Abril, Semana Santa & Festival de Patios).

I love all of them, and that is the reason why I recommend you to experience them. Spain has many other festivals throughout the year, but they are smaller, mainly celebrated within a particular community. However, these 6 are the most famous Spanish festivals that will make you experience real Spanish culture, fiesta, dancing, and singing on the streets until the early morning.

If you plan to spend more time in Andalucia, check out my southern Spain itinerary for 10 days. You can plan it for spring when Feria de Abril is held. Or get my Spain itinerary for 14 days, with which you can explore all the highlights of the country.

Check out my Spain Travel Guide for general information and tips for the most beautiful places in Spain.

If you want to visit Barcelona, get my Barcelona itinerary for 3 days. Or explore some of the top road trips from Barcelona and have fun in Catalunya.

Go to my Spain section for more articles and inspiration for your Spain travel.

 

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