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It's hard to beat the experience of arriving in some small Spanish village, expecting no more than a bed for the night, to discover the streets decked out with flags and streamers, a band playing in the plaza and the entire population out celebrating the local fiesta. Everywhere in Spain, from the tiniest hamlet to the great cities, devotes at least a couple of days a year to their festivals. Usually it's the local saint's day, but there are celebrations of harvests, of deliverance from the Moors, of safe return from the sea - any excuse will do. There are also the events of the Catholic calendar, most notably Semana Santa (Holy Week), which in Audalucía sees theatrical religious floats carried through the streets, accompanied by hooded penitents atoning for the year's misdeeds. Each festival is different. In the Basque country there will often be bulls running flamenco and the guitar are an essential part of any celebration; in Valencia they specialize in huge bonfires and deranged firework displays (climaxing in Las Fallas in March). But this is just the mainstream. Fiestas can be very strange indeed, ranging from parades of devils to full-blown battles with water or even tomatoes.
Fiestas calendar
Fiestas are an absolutely crucial part of Spanish life. Even the smallest village gives at least a couple of days a year over to partying, and happening across a local event can be huge fun, propelling you right into the heart of its culture. But as well as such community celebrations, Spain has some really major events: most famously the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona, the April Feria of Seville, and the great religious processions of Semana Santa, leading up to Easter. Any of these can be worth planning your whole trip around.

Following is a very basic calendar of fiesta highlights . For more detailed information, consult local tourist offices. Outsiders are always welcome at fiestas, the one problem being that it can be hard to find a hotel, unless you book well in advance.

Note that saint's day festivals - indeed all Spanish celebrations - can vary in date , often being observed over the weekend closest to the dates given in our listings. Contact local tourist offices for more details.


16-17: San Antoni's day is preceded by bonfires and processions, especially on the Balearic Islands .


Carnaval (the week preceding Ash Wednesday and Lent) is an excuse for wild partying and masques, most riotous in Cádiz (Andalucía), Sitges (Catalunya), and Águilas (Valencia).


12-19 Las Fallas in Valencia is the biggest of the bonfire festivals held for San José, climaxing on the Night of Fire when enormous caricatures are burnt and firecrackers take over the streets.

Easter (March/April)

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is celebrated across Spain with religious processions, at their most theatrical in the cities of Sevilla, Málaga, Murcia and Valladolid , where pasos - huge floats of religious scenes - are carried down the streets, accompanied by hooded penitents atoning for the year's misdeeds. Good Friday sees the biggest processions.


22-24: Moros y Cristianos - mock battle between Moors and Christians - in Alcoy, Valencia. (Similar events take place throughout the year all around Spain.

23: San Jordi - Catalunya's patron saint's day is a big party across the region and is also celebrated on National Book Day throughout Spain.

Last week: Feria de Abril - spectacular week-long fair at Sevilla.


Early May: Horse Fair at Jerez (Andalucía).

7-22: San Isidro - Madrid's patron saint (15th) - is a signal for parades, free concerts, and the start of the bullfight season.

Pentecost (Whitsun:7th Sunday after Easter): the great pilgrimage to El Rocío, near Huelva (Andalucía).

Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity; May/June) is a focus for religious processions, accompanied by floats and penitents, notably in Toledo, Granada and Valencia. Many town fiestas also take place, including the spectacular costumed events of the Festa de la Patum (Catalunya).


23-24: San Juan and midsummer's eve is celebrated with bonfires all over Spain - particularly in San Juan de Alicante, where a local version of Las Fallas takes place.

29: San Pedro - patron of fishermen - is honoured by flotillas of boats, and partying all along the coast.


7-14: San Fermin - the famed running of the bulls at Pamplona .

25: Santiago - Spain's patron saint, St James - is honoured at Santiago de Compostela, with fireworks and bonfires.


10-11 : Elche (Valencia) hosts mock battles between Christians and Moors, ending with a centuries-old mystery play.

First/second week : Mass canoe races down the Río Sella in Asturias.

Third week : Toledo's main fiesta, climaxing in amazing fireworks at the weekend.

Last week: Gigantones (giant puppets) are paraded in Alcalá de Henares (Castile).

Last Wed (usually): La Tomatina in Buñol, near Valencia: the country's craziest fiesta, a two-hour tomato fight.


First week: Vendimia (grape harvest) celebrations at Valdepeñas (New Castile), Jerez (Andalucía) and other wine towns.

21: Rioja wine harvest celebrated in Logroño (Old Castile).


1: San Miguel Villages across the country celebrate their patron saint's day

12: La Virgen del Pilar - the patron saint of Aragón - is an excuse for bullfights and jota dancing at Zaragoza and elsewhere.


31: Nochevieja New year is celebrated by eating a grape for every stroke of the clock in Plaza del Sol in Madrid.


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