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FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN SPAIN




San Fermín
July

The festival of San Fermínin the city of Pamplona (Navarre, Spain), is a deeply rooted celebration held annually from 12:00, 6 July, when the opening of the fiesta is mark to midnight 14 July, with the singing of the Pobre de Mí. While its most famous event is the encierro, or the running of the bulls, which happens at 8:00 am from July 7th to July 14th, the week long celebration involves many other traditional and folkloric events. It is known locally as Sanfermines and is held in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarre. Its events were central to the plot of The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, which brought it to the general attention of English-speaking people. It has become probably the most internationally renowned fiesta in Spain. Over 1,000,000 people come to watch this festival. The most key day of the festival is July 7, when thousands of people accompany the 15th-century statue of Saint Fermin through the old part of Pamplona. The statue is accompanied by dancers and street entertainers, and different political and religious authorities including the city mayor.


Seconds before the beginning of the San Fermín Festival in Pamplona


Tomatina Tomato Fight Festival
August

La Tomatinais a festival that is held in the Valencian town of Buñol, a town located 30 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea in which participants throw tomatoes and get involved in this tomato fight purely for fun. It is held on the last Wednesday of August, during the week of festivities of Buñol. At around 10 AM, festivities begin with the first event of the Tomatina. It is the "palo jabón", similar to the greasy pole. The goal is to climb a greased pole with a ham on top. As this happens, the crowd work into a frenzy of singing and dancing while being showered in water from hoses. Once someone is able to drop the ham off the pole, the start signal for the tomato fight is given by firing the water shot in the air and trucks make their entry. For the participants the use of goggles and gloves are recommended. The tomatoes must be crushed before being thrown so as to reduce the risk of injury. The estimated number of tomatoes used are around 150,000 i.e. over 40 metric tons. The whole town square is coloured red and rivers of tomato juice flow freely. After the cleaning, the village cobblestone streets are pristine due to the acidity of the tomato disinfecting and thoroughly cleaning the streets.


Tomatina Tomato Fight Festival, 2006
Photograph by Graham McLellan


Running of the Bulls
July

The Running of the Bulls is a practice that involves running in front of a small group (typically a dozen) of bulls that have been let loose, on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town's streets. The most famous running of the bulls is that of the seven-day festival of Sanfermines in honour of San Fermнn in Pamplona, although they are held in towns and villages across Spain, Portugal, and in some cities in Mexico. The purpose of this event was in origin to transport the bulls from the off-site corrals where they had spent the night, to the bullring where they would be killed in the evening. Youngsters would jump among them to show off their bravado. Spanish tradition says the true origin began in North-eastern Spain during the early 14th century. While transporting cattle in order to sell at the market, men would attempt to speed the process by hurrying their cattle using tactics of fear and excitement. Before the running of the bulls, a set of wooden or iron barricades is erected to direct the bulls along the route and to block off side streets. There may be a double row of barricades along the route to allow runners to quickly exit in case of danger. The gaps in the barricades are wide enough for a person to slip through, but narrow enough to block a bull.


The bull run in Pamplona, 2007


Las Fallas
March

The Fallesis a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph in Valencia, Spain. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments created during the celebration. Each neighbourhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous specialty paella. The five days and nights of Falles are a continuous party. There are a multitude of processions: historical processions, religious processions, and comedic processions. Crowds in the restaurants spill out into the streets. Explosions can be heard all day long and sporadically through the night. Brass bands will appear from the casals and begin to march down every street playing lively music. Close behind them are the fallers, throwing large firecrackers in the street as they go. During Falles, many people wear their casal faller dress in regional and historical costumes from different eras of Valencia's history; the dolçaina and tabalet (a kind of Valencian drum) are frequently heard, as most of the different casals fallers have their own traditional bands.


Las Fallas, 2007
Smoke rises as crowds watch the Mascleta


Seville Fair
April

The Seville Fairis held in the Andalusian capital of Seville, Spain. The fair generally begins two weeks after the Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week. The fair officially begins at midnight on Monday, and runs six days, ending on the following Sunday. During past fairs, however, many activities have begun on the Saturday prior to the official opening. Each day the fiesta begins with the parade of carriages and riders, at midday, carrying Seville's leading citizens which make their way to the bullring, La Real Maestranza, where the bullfighters and breeders meet. For the duration of the fair, the fairgrounds and a vast area on the far bank of the Guadalquivir River are totally covered in rows of casetas (individual decorated marquee tents which are temporarily built on the fairground). La Feria of Abril is accompanied by men and women dressed up in their finery, ideally the traditional "traje corto" (short jacket, tight trousers and boots) for men and the "faralaes" or "trajes de flamenca" (flamenco style dress, see flamenco) for women. The men traditionally wear hats called "cordobés".


A street in the 2007 Seville Fair







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