Spain is a beautiful country with several festivals, holidays, and customs. Human interaction, relaxation, and enjoyment are some of the things that Spaniards value highly, aside from food and drink. Who wouldn’t want to be in a world where practically every day is a celebration?
If you’re planning a trip to Spain, make it a priority to attend some of the country’s most popular festivals and participate in its diverse holiday activities. Learning a few local customs won’t hurt and will help you blend in with the crowd. Read on for a look at some traditional Spanish rituals, traditions, holidays, and celebrations.
Tip: To learn some interesting things about this gorgeous country, take a look at our fun and interesting facts about Spain.
Spanish Traditions and Rituals
Discovering new cultures and traditions is one of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling. You can do precisely that in Spain, with its rich culture, history, and cuisine. The country has some unique and entertaining customs. Let’s take a look at some traditions in Spain.
Because of the weather in Spain and Spaniards’ eating habits, one of the most popular of Spain’s traditions is to take a siesta, or nap, after lunch. This implies that most businesses and stores close between 2 and 4 p.m.
Employees are allowed to go home, eat, and rest during the warmest part of the day. Although Spaniards are used to the city coming to a halt in the middle of the day for a few hours, tourists often find siesta time inconvenient because they plan to roam around or shop.
Rigid Eating Times
Light breakfast is served to begin at 7 a.m., but most people eat around 8:30 a.m., with pastries selling out by 10 a.m. At roughly 12:30 p.m., indulge in la hour del vermut—a sip of sweet Spanish vermouth—followed by lunch from 1:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. Dinner tapas are typically served at 9 p.m., while a full sit-down meal is usually served around 10 p.m. If you decide to go out for dinner, make sure to be well versed in the tipping culture in Spain.
Corrida de Toros (Bullfighting)
A bullfighting show, along with legendary flamenco dance, delectable tapas, and refreshing and uplifting sangría, is frequently on the top ten of traditional Spanish pastimes. Ultimately, the event is a showdown between a highly trained professional torero or matador and the Mediterranean’s most potent animal: el toro de lidia, the brave bull!
Although bullfighting has become a highly contentious institution in the last decade or two, the bull remains one of Spain’s most influential figures. The tradition of bullfighting continues to attract many tourists.
Double Cheek Kissing
In Spain, people kiss each other on the cheeks to greet and say goodbye. This isn’t even kissing in the traditional sense. People commonly make a kissing sound while touching their right cheeks and then repeat the process with their left.
The double cheek kiss is given to say welcome and goodbye to a friend you meet for drinks or to someone new. Women are always greeted in this manner, but unless they are relatives, two males shake hands.
Traditional Spanish Holidays
Spain is a fascinating country filled with national holidays, but each city also has its own memorable holiday. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular holidays.
Semana Santa (Holy Week)
Semana Santa is a week-long festival celebrated in cities throughout Spain, but mainly in Andalucia. Thousands of people participate in processions as giant floats bearing holy sculptures are taken to the church during the event. Marching bands playing religious music accompany them as thousands line the streets to watch it all unfold.
Semana Santa is the most solemn but also one of the most intriguing of Spain’s numerous and varied festivities. The festival commemorates Jesus Christ’s final days before his crucifixion. Many floats have an effigy of him carrying a cross. Another significant image is of the Virgin Mary.
Saint John’s Eve and Saint John’s Day
June 24, Saint John’s Day, is one of the most important festivals in Barcelona for many people. They commemorate Saint John’s birthday, Catalonia’s patron saint, as well as the summer solstice, known as the shortest night of the year and the calendar beginning of the summer.
There will be fireworks starting at dusk on June 23 and lasting all night. Demons are meant to be ejected in this manner. People eat a lot that night. Thus there are parties in several districts with an extensive culinary offering.
Expect the streets to be deserted on Saint John’s Day as everyone recovers from the night before. Bars and most grocery stores are closed, and movement will only begin in the early afternoon.
St. Stephen’s Day
The day after Christmas in Catalonia is its own holiday: St. Stephen’s Day (San Esteban or Sant Esteve, in Catalan). On December 26, the residents celebrate with another large feast. Canelons, a classic Catalan dish, are frequently served at this feast.
Three Kings Day
In Spain, the Christmas season lasts until well past December 25. It actually lasts another 12 days, until January 6, which is Three Kings Day, or Día de los Reyes Magos. This is when Spanish children traditionally get their gifts from the Three Wise Men rather than Santa Claus.
The night of January 5 is basically Christmas Eve, with one significant difference: La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos is included (the Three Kings Day parade). People assemble on city streets throughout Spain to watch the floats and catch as much candy as they can from the parade participants.
Spanish National Day
El Día de la Hispanidad and La Fiesta Nacional de España are two names for this holiday. It takes place on October 12 to mark the arrival of Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) in the Americas in 1492.
Spain’s National Day is commemorated today with parades showcasing the Spanish Armed Forces and displays of national pride. However, they frequently feature performers costumed in traditional attire from several Latin American countries, highlighting other Spanish-speaking cultures.
Traditional Celebrations in Spain
Spain is recognized for its spectacular festivals that take place throughout the year, bringing together thousands of locals to commemorate special occasions. These fiestas are noted for their music, food, and overall enjoyable feeling that they provide. A few of the most well-known Spanish celebrations are listed below.
Las Fallas de Valencia (The Festival of Fire)
This traditional feast honors Saint Joseph and is conducted in Valencia. Fallas is a Spanish word that refers to both the event and the massive monuments burned during the festivities.
This annual event takes place in March each year.
The burning portion of this particular event is founded on old Pagan practices, which is an interesting fact. The event is famous for its spectacular fireworks displays and live music. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about local culture while also having a blast.
The La Tomatina festival is renowned for being both extremely enjoyable and extremely dirty. This event takes place in the small village of Buñol, which is roughly 40 kilometers west of Valencia.
Around 9 a.m., the event begins. A giant slab of ham is hoisted up on a tall pole in the town square, and people struggle to get to it.
Because the pole is constantly highly greased, it’s rare for somebody to reach the ham. Trucks begin unloading tons of ripe tomatoes after about 2 hours of unsuccessful attempts to get the ham. At this point, a cannon fires to signify the commencement of the mayhem.
People throw tomatoes at each other, covering the entire area in a puree. At noon, a second cannon blasts, signaling the conclusion of the festivities and sending the participants home to clean up.
San Fermin (The Bull Run)
Perhaps one of Spain’s most famous events, the annual Bull Run is a dangerous spectacle in which adrenaline-fueled locals of Pamplona seek to outrun raging bulls through the city’s streets. This festival is extremely dangerous, and many individuals have been seriously injured while participating in it.
Every year in early July, the bull run takes place. This event begins at 8 a.m. each day during the festival week and runs throughout the day.
Festa Major De Gracia
This summer festival takes place in Barcelona, Spain’s capital city, primarily in the Gracia area. On this day, almost the entire neighborhood comes together to celebrate the festivities and compete for the title of the most beautiful and distinctively decorated street.
The decorations throughout the district are all different and colorful, providing a dreamlike experience. During this period, many street sellers and performers set up shop on the streets, adding to the bustling ambiance of the Gracia district.
Cordoba Patios Festival
The Patios Festival in Cordoba is well-known for its unique beauty. This celebration, which takes place in the first week of May, has a long history in the Spanish city of Cordoba.
Owners of the city’s most magnificent patios frequently open them up to bystanders and public viewing during this period. Many have been meticulously manicured for years and are very exquisite.
The Wonderful Celebrations in Spain – Are They Worth It?
We hope we’ve sparked your interest and that you’re now planning your own trip to Spain. You won’t want to miss any of these fantastic events. So take your sunscreen and a party hat and head to Barcelona or Andalucia for an unforgettable experience. You’ve heard it said that Spaniards love to have a good time, and we can agree that it’s certainly true.