Spain and the Spanish culture have been popular with Northern Europeans since the country was ‘discovered’ by a new generation of tourists in the mid nineteen sixties. Traditions are very important to the Spanish people and they do all they can to preserve ways of life that have existed for hundreds of years.
Don’t make the mistake however of thinking that the country is stuck in the past. Nothing could be further from the truth as the Spanish successfully mix tradition with a vibrant and modern lifestyle that is the envy of many.
Every day in the calendar is a Saint’s day somewhere in Spain and they certainly know how to throw a party! These are a few of the major festivals;
Las Fallas is undoubtedly one of the most unique and crazy festivals in Spain (a country known for unique and crazy festivals). What started as a feast day for St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, has evolved into a 5-day, multifaceted celebration of fire. Valencia is usually a quiet city with a population of a half-million, but the town swells to an estimated three million flame-loving revelers during Las Fallas.
Las Fallas literally means “the fires” in Valencian. The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots–huge cardboard, wood and plaster statues–that are placed at over 350 key intersections and parks around the city today. The ninots are extremely lifelike and usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events (lampooning corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities is particularly popular). They are crafted by neighborhood organizations and take about six months to construct (and often cost upwards of US$75,000). Many ninots are several stories tall and need to be moved into position with cranes.
The ninots remain in place until March 19th, the day known as “La Crema.” Starting in the early evening, young men with axes chop holes in the statues and stuff them with fireworks. The crowds start to chant, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire at exactly the stroke of midnight. Over the years, the local firemen, called “bomberos,” have devised unique ways to protect the town’s buildings from torching along with the ninots. In the besides the burning of the ninots, there is a myriad of other activities during the fiesta. During the day, you can check out the extensive roster of bullfights, parades, paella contests and beauty pageants around the city.
While Semana Santa is a national tradition throughout Spain, the “Andalucians” arguably “feel” the week more than other regions of Spain. Semana Santa is a tradition which is repeated year after year; a time when the devout and curious join together to participate in the procession and converge on the streets and squares which take on the ambience and mystique of an open air temple.
The “costaleros” who carry the weight of the floats and their sculptured representations of the biblical scene are directed by the overseer or head of the group who ensure that the float is carried with maximum seriousness, grace and tradition. The thrones are followed by “nazarenos” dressed in tunics, hoods and masks and women dressed in traditional costume.
The entire scene is alive with colour and sound, thanks to the polychromatic variety of tunics, hoods, ensigns and banners. Emotions are stirred by the slow rythmic beating of the drums and processional marches, the swaying paces of the bearers and the poignant wailing of the “saeta” which is a sacred song, similar to the flamenco and sung through the Holy Week processions.
Even if you are not religious, it is difficult not to be moved, the atmosphere is so vital and poignant.
To fully enjoy a siesta it is very important to have a good lunch with friends or/and relatives.
The real siesta takes place in bed and in pyjamas, but a comfortable sofa is also fine if no bed is available.
Timing is very important. A siesta should last between 15-30 minutes, no more. Don’t let anything disturb you. The siesta is a very serious business. The best way to wake up from a siesta is to hear a delicate human voice. If you don’t have anybody near, remember to use an alarm clock.