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More Spanish Festivals
Tamborrada, San Sebastián

Every year on the 19th and 20th of January, the Basque city of San Sebastian prepares for the noisiest festival in the whole of Spain. From midnight to midnight the city is alive to the sound of drumming as groups of marching bands parade through the streets in honour of the city's patron saint, pounding out rhythms on their drums and barrels. The origins of the festival are a little bit unclear but legend has it that in 1720 a local baker was filling his water barrels and started to sing and a group of passing girls began to bang on the barrels to accompany him. A crowd soon gathered and the festival was born.

The festival starts with the raising of the flag at midnight on the 19th and 24 hours of marching, drumming and revelry send the city into a frenzy until the festival is brought to a close by the drummers of the "Union Artesana" on midnight the following day.

Cava Week, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia

In the heart of Cava country in the Penedes region of northeast Catalonia, the first Thursday of September heralds the start of Cava Week, a seven day celebration of Spain's answer to champagne. The Catalonian town of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is the undisputed home of Cava; the town produces 85% of Spain's output of the famous sparkling wine.

The festivities begin with the crowning of the Cava queen at the start of the week; once crowned, she is given a glass of the first pressing of the year's crop – then begins a week of wine, food and concerts and events. Indeed it's not all about the Cava, gourmet food, music and a 300 man cycle race all add to the merriment. Possibly the most famous event of the week is the arrival of the Cava train from Barcelona. 1,000 revellers from the Catalan capital arrive in the sleepy village with much pomp and fanfare as they are escorted to the Cava houses and the town hall – the day out includes tastings, cellar tours and a gourmet lunch before the revellers get back on the train and return to Barcelona.

Moros y Cristianos, Alcoy

Celebrated in venues all around Spain the Moros y Cristianos festival (literally "Moors and Christians") commemorate the many battles fought between the two sides in the "Reconquista" period of Spanish history. The most famous of these events takes place in the Valencian town of Alcoy around Saint George's day in April. Legend asserts that Saint George himself miraculously appeared at such a battle as Alcoy and turned the tide in favour of the Christians.

These days the festival is the highlight of the year for the townsfolk of Alcoy with no less than 28 separate Moorish and Christian armies parading around in full medieval, military attire. The proceedings are taken very seriously by the Alcoyanos as they march in their companies all day accompanied by bands. Mock battles also take place at various points throughout the festival culminating in a huge simulated battle around Alcoy's castle.

Feria de Abril, Seville

Originally a cattle trading fair in the 19th century, Seville's Feria de Abril (April Fair) is a week long festival which takes place in the Andalucian city every year, attracting over 1 million visitors. A seven day celebration of bullfighting, flamenco and horsemanship that grips the city just two weeks after the culmination of the more solemn proceedings of Semana Santa (Holy Week). Locals are dressed in traditional Andalucian clothing with the women stealing the show with their magnificent and colourful flamenco dresses; the men wear wide brimmed "bolero" hats and short cut jackets. The main focal point of the festival is the city of "Casetas" (large temporary tents) that is set up every year – these tents are usually assigned to a political group or society with a dance floor and a bar where young and old dance the night away to the strains of flamenco.
About the Author
Mike McDougall has been commissioned by Babylon Idiomas to write a number of articles about Spanish culture. Babylon Idiomas is a Spanish language institute with schools in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia), Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Costa Rica.
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