Celebrate a saint running from bulls, burn down giant works of art or fight a battle with tomatoes as your only ammunition. At first, these festivals may sound strange to international tourists who don't know that we're talking about San Fermín, las Fallas or la Tomatina.
For us the festivals mentioned above are the most popular, but there are plenty of other festivals full of tradition to discover that may even seem curious to Spaniards themselves. Let’s take a look at some of the good ones:
Danza de la muerte de Verges (Catalonia)
This solemn ritual, in which people dressed as the Grim Reaper carrying scythes dance around town, has taken place in this village in Gerona for centuries. The tradition dates back to times when the plague devastated the town.
El Mariquelo de Salamanca (Castile and León):
If you happen to be in Salamanca on October 31 and see a man climbing the tower of the New Cathedral without equipment or ropes don't worry, you're just seeing the Mariquelo. This courageous character keeps up the tradition of thanking God that the earthquake of 1755 left no fatalities in the city.
Os Peliqueiros de Laza (Galicia)
The origin of this carnival from Orense is so old that there is no record of its first celebration. People talk about Romans or Celtics... but no one knows for sure who the first people to parade around with these smiling wooden masks topped with animal drawings really were.
Los Enharinados de Ibi(Valencia)
Every December 28, two satirical and grotesque sides fight for control of this town in Alicante. Their weapons? Fireworks, flour, eggs and vegetables. As with many other celebrations the origin of this one is uncertain.
San Antón, Madrid
Every January 17, at the central church of San Antón (Madrid), you will see a long line of people waiting with their pets, which they’ve brought with them to be blessed. Cats, dogs, rodents and birds are the most common, but more "atypical" pets such as reptiles or birds of prey can also be seen.
Día de la Almadía (Navarre)
In early May, in the town of Valle del Roncal, locals dressed in regional costumes reminisce about a time when wood harvested from the lush forests in the area was carried down the River Esca on rafts. It is a spectacular celebration but not without risk.
Descenso Internacional del Sella (Asturias)
This is an event that is more than 75 years old. On the first Saturday following the August 2, tons of canoeists boat down the Sella River to celebrate. Is it a massive party that unites sports enthusiasts and partiers or a competition strangled by its own success? A controversy to consider.
Encierro del bus de Torralba(Aragon)
About 40 years ago the city hall of this town in Zaragoza forgot to ask for the legal permits necessary to hold the running of the baby bulls. Their solution? To let a bus "run" through the town, as if it were the bull. The local youth ran from it, and since the idea was a success, the town decided to get rid of the bulls in subsequent editions of the event too! It may seem a little odd, but we assure you, it is much safer to be pursued by a cautious driver honking the horn, than by a runaway bull.
The Vijanera de Silió (Cantabria)
This celebration is an impressive masquerade which takes place on the first Sunday of the New Year. Up to 75 characters infused with meaning and metaphor about the mystical and the human represent the struggle between good and evil, and the birth of the New Year... along with other rituals lost in the mists of time. Among the characters you can find zamarracos, dressed in sheepskins and loaded with bells, who are responsible for warding off evil spirits; and trapajones, beings of nature whose costumes are made with natural materials such as bark, leaves, ivy and straw. It is a festival that transports you to a magical time and place!
There is no shortage of curious, meaningful and unique festivals in Spain. In fact we've left quite a few out of this list! We hope you'll come discover them for yourself when you come with us to Spain with us!.