Holidays and Weekends in Spain

By | August 24, 2022

January 1 – New Year

Very often the Spaniards spend New Year’s Eve (Noche vieja) on the street, at various festivities, discos, restaurants and bars. Young people often gather in companies in the house of one of the participants in the celebration. In Madrid, a crowd of celebrating traditionally gathers in the central square of Puerta del Sol. When the clock strikes midnight, mutual congratulations and wishes begin. The New Year’s custom of the Spaniards is known: while the clock is striking, you must have time to swallow twelve grapes, then your wishes will come true. Spain is a viticultural country, so it is not surprising that there are a number of beliefs associated with the vine: whoever eats grapes for the New Year will be with money all year, a grape eaten on this day drives away evil spirits.

In general, the entire New Year’s (perhaps more often called Christmas) period between December 25 (Christmas) and January 6 (Magi Day) is called the “sacred twelve days” (Duodenario mistico). In addition to the holidays already mentioned, within this twelve-day period there are special days of the calendar, sometimes associated with religious tradition. So, the day of December 28 – according to the church canon, “the day of the holy innocent babies” (Dia de Santos Inocentes) has become a kind of children’s holiday, during which children can joke and even play pranks on adults. December 31 – St. Sylvester, that day was not supposed to work, otherwise, supposedly, some kind of trouble could happen. This cycle ends on January 6, the day of the Magi Kings (in another way, this day is called Epifania del Senor – Epiphany).

January 6 – Day of the Magi

According to, the main characters around whom all the action takes place are the three kings Belshazzar, Melchior and Gaspar. Experts are inclined to see here a reworking of the Gospel story about the adoration of the Magi Magi to the newborn Christ (remember this story, often found among painters: “The Adoration of the Magi”). Now this holiday is generally secular and mainly for children. On this day, children all over Spain are waiting for the magician kings with gifts. On the eve, they put shoes outside the window or hang stockings, and in the morning they run to see if there is a gift. Although disobedient or guilty parents sometimes, instead of a gift, smear their faces with charcoal in a dream.

On this day, one of the important spectacles is the arrival and procession of the Magi-kings through the streets of cities and villages. The kings march, as a rule, accompanied by a retinue. Moreover, depending on the locality, region or province, the arrival and procession can also take place in very different ways. So, in the city of Palma de Mallorca, the kings enter the city in colorful medieval costumes, accompanied by an honorary military escort to the music of a military band. In the Canary Islands, the spectacle is exotic: the kings arrive on camels.

Now children can often see how the Magi appear on the eve of the holiday in trucks filled to the top with toys and other gifts.

The days before this holiday, according to sociologists, are the days of massive purchases and big expenses in Spanish families.

March 19 – San Jose Day

Holy Week takes place in Spain usually at the end of April (sometimes, depending on the church calendar, falls at the beginning of May). The first day of this week is the so-called Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos). (Compare: Orthodox Russians have “Palm Sunday”). On this day, believers strive to consecrate a palm, laurel or olive branch in the church. Dry branches are then kept at home for a long time as amulets. Sometimes these branches are nailed to the doors of the house, considering them a talisman, protection from evil spirits.

Every day of the week there are processions, and often there is a presentation on some religious subject. Processions are organized by religious brotherhoods or communities (Cofradias), which are created, as a rule, at church parishes. Each community prepares with its own money and donations from believers the so-called pasos – large and heavy platforms with a sculptural group or groups depicting the suffering Christ, the Mother of God mourning him, sometimes with other characters. Pasos are carried by members of the community (cofrades) during religious processions (procesiones). It is hard (and dangerous) work, and for many weeks before Easter, members of the communities spend long training sessions. It is interesting to note that many members of the community see this as the fulfillment of their religious duty, sometimes as atonement for sins. At the same time, there are cases

The passions of believers reach a special intensity on Thursday (Jueves Santo, Jueves de la Pasion) and Friday (Viernes Santo) of Holy Week. On Holy Thursday, many participants in the processions who have taken a vow carry a cross on their shoulders. Mummers dressed as “Roman soldiers”, “Jews”, “angels”, “devils”, etc. take part in the procession. Stops are made during the procession, during which special chants are often performed.

The colorful and dramatic Easter processions in the Andalusian city of Seville are especially famous. However, the processions in Zamora, Toledo, Albacete and many other cities in Spain are also very famous.

May 1 – Labor Day

May 2 – Anniversary of the Madrid Uprising

July 25 – Santiago Day

August 15 – Assumption of the Virgin

During the holiday, church services, religious processions take place, folk festivals take place, sometimes performances are given in the form of religious mysteries. In the city of Elche (province of Alicante) on August 14 and 15 in the Basilica of St. Mary is given a traditional religious theatrical performance – auto (misterio) with an impressive finale of the coronation of the Virgin Mary. No less famous is the religious mystery dedicated to the August Virgin in La Al Berca (Salamanca), which is played in the open air in the square in front of the church. In Vinuesa (province of Soria) a mock battle is being played out for possession of the image of the Virgin Mary. In general, a lot of purely folk traditions are associated with this holiday. Some researchers believe that the roots of this holiday are associated with ancient agricultural rituals, harvesting,

October 12 – National Holiday of Spain and the Feast of the Holy Virgin of Pilar

Initially, this day was celebrated in Aragon (one of the historical regions of Spain) as a holiday in honor of Our Lady of Pilar. According to the legend of St. The Virgin appeared to the Apostle Santiago on the banks of the Ebro River and supported the saint in his difficult missionary duty – the spread of Christianity in Spain. Moreover, the Mother of God appeared, standing on a column (column, pillar – in Spanish pilar), hence the name of the Holy Virgin Pilar. The cult of Our Lady of Pilar is one of the most revered and famous in Catholic Spain. On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus, leading a Spanish expedition, discovered the lands of the New World. It is quite natural that believers saw in this a sign of patronage, help from the Holy Virgin Pilar.

As a national holiday of the country – the Day of the Spaniards – the Spaniards began to celebrate back in the days of Franco. This day was celebrated as the day of the Spanish race, the Spanish spirit and had a certain imperial character (no wonder: many Spaniards nostalgically recall the days of the Spanish colonial empire, in which the sun never set). Now the current democratic Spain considers this day a kind of birthday of the community of peoples of the Spanish language, the day of Spanish civilization. (It should be noted that many Spaniards of the left are still skeptical about this date.)

November 1 – All Saints Day

December 6 – Constitution Day

December 8 – Immaculate Conception Day

December 25 – Christmas

The winter holidays in Spain end with the New Year cycle: Christmas, New Year, Day of the Kings-Magi. Interestingly, unlike the Russians, the Spaniards in this “trio”, perhaps, the main holiday is Christmas. First of all, this is a family celebration, usually with a hearty meal, with the obligatory mutual presentation of gifts to each other. Previously, the custom of caroling was widespread in the villages, in which children first of all, and sometimes young people, took part. At the same time, they went from house to house and sang songs with various wishes. The caroling process itself and the gifts (sweets, pastries, food) that were received at the same time were called aguinaldo, and the caroling participants were called aguinaldeiros. Another very common Christmas custom is the construction of the so-called belenes or pesebres (the first word comes from the biblical toponym Belen – Bethlehem, the second means the manger in which the newborn baby Jesus Christ was placed). These are models or compositions of various sizes depicting the gospel scene of the birth of Christ. Sometimes they are models in glazed boxes, sometimes they are a whole composition, in the open air, or in some room (garage, outbuilding, part of a residential building or apartment). The scene sometimes depicts a cave, sometimes some kind of building, in a section, sometimes a fragment of a landscape, where the indispensable participants are the baby Jesus, the Mother of God, Joseph. Next to them are domestic animals, an angel, shepherds or wise men (kings-magicians) who came to bow to the baby, who saw the star of Bethlehem shone and brought gifts to the Lord. Believers on Christmas often go to the festive service in the church. This is the so-called Misa de aurora or Misa de gallo (morning, ”

Each province and almost all cities supplement this list with their local holidays: the days of saints, patrons, the foundation of something, the liberation of something and from someone, the conquest of someone and its subsequent liberation from something. And, as a result, holidays are held in Spain every day and several of them. However, only the national holidays listed above are considered non-working days.

Holidays and Weekends in Spain