Top Ten Spanish Festivals in August

by John Bascombe on Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spanish Festivals

Spain in August

August may be a little more than half over, but here’s a list of some of Spain’s coolest fiestas in the hottest month, so you know what’s going on this summer, or next summer… always en español.

Viking Boat1. The Viking Festival of Catoira

Celebrated since 1961, this curious event happens on the first Sunday of August in the Galician village of Catoira (but festivities begin a week before the festival actually begins). Festival participants reenact an 11th century Viking landing that occurred on the banks of this piece of coastline and the villagers’ efforts to defend themselves from the invaders. The drakkar boats used are exact replicas of original Viking boats found in Skudelev, Denmark. Catoira residents built the boats under the supervision of master builders from Frederikssund (Denmark), a sister city of Catoira. Take your own early August voyage to this northwestern Spanish town and prepare to enter the fascinating world of the Vikings.

Bilbao2. La Semana Grande de Bilbao

(Bilboko Aste Nagustia, in the Basque language). As its name suggests, this is Bilbao’s biggest and grandest festival. It takes place for 9 days beginning on August 15th. The comparsas (kompartsak in Basque) are the life of the party. These are groups of locals who serve food and beverages at serving stands, and offer musical performances and other activities such as traditional rural sporting competitions (herri kirolak). The festival kicks off with the launch of a rocket called the chupinazo, like the one that begins Pamplona’s San Fermín Festival. The symbol of the Semana Grande is Marijaia, the figure of a woman with her arms raised who appears forever lost in dance. A fireworks display draws festivities to a close.

Sella River, Spain3. Descenso Internacional del Sella

Celebrated every year on the first Saturday after August 2nd in an area between Arrioniadas and Ribadesella (Asturias), this is likely northern Spain’s best known sport-festivity challenge. Some 1,500 canoeists attempt to reach the finish line first after rowing 15 kilometers on the Sella River. This is the 78th year of the event, in which participants are placed into five different age groups. Curiously, one of the groups requires the combined ages of a single boat to surpass one hundred years (boats accepted for competition carry a maximum of 2 people). The excitement also spills onto the banks of the river, where thousands of excited fans follow the animated sports action.

Fiestas de Maria Pita4. Fiestas de María Pita

A Coruña’s Fiestas de María Pita take place over the entire month of August in the coastal town of A Coruña, Galicia, where summertime visitors can check out hundreds of concerts, exhibits, activities, and events. The festival commemorates María Pita, who in the 16th century lead the city’s defense against the British army, commanded by Sir Francis Drake. Logically, most events take place in the Plaza de María Pita, a town square in the center of A Coruña. Most of the events are completely free.

Fiestas Colombinas5. Fiestas colombinas de Huelva (Andalusia)

These festivals, Huelva’s biggest celebration, commemorate the day that Christopher Columbus set sail for America (August 3). The party rages on for 6 days (from July 30 to August 4), a time when the city and the “Recinto Colombino” fill with excited revelers and blue and white canvas fair booths. There’s also a stage near the water called “Música junto a la ría” for concerts, fair attractions, sporting competitions, and much more. The festival attracts over half a million visitors each year.

Fiesta de la Rama6. La Fiesta de la Rama in Agaete, Gran Canaria

This is a characteristic Canary festival that features a variety of celebrations in honor of Our Lady of the Snows on August 5. But it’s on the eve of the 5th when the Fiesta de la Rama is celebrated, when thousands of people dance and wave palm branches until they reach the sanctuary of the Virgin. The festival likely originated with the island’s indigenous people, the Guanches, who would take branches down from Mount Tirma to beat them on the sea as a special request to the gods for rain. Today, a unanimous shout can still be heard that recalls the event’s early origins: “Agüita, agüita, que la rama está sequita” (water, water, the branch is dry).   

Fiestas de la Paloma7. Fiestas de La Paloma in Madrid's La Latina neighborhood

Celebrated around August 15, this is the final part of a trilogy of festivities that begin with the feast of St. Cajetan (August 7) and the feast of St. Lawrence (August 10). The backbone of these fiestas is the street Calle de Toledo and other nearby places such as the famous square Plaza de Cascorro, the home of the flea market. Here you can see the gatos (residents born in Madrid) dancing the chotis in their traditional outfits eating pastries and belting out melodies from La Verbana de la Paloma, a zarzuela operetta that captured this Madrid celebration. It’s a time when the city sheds its cosmopolitan air and returns to its roots as a small Castilian town.

Feria de Malaga8. Feria de Málaga

On the Costa del Sol, during the month of August, the Feria de Málaga commemorates the Catholic Monarchs’ conquest of the city on August 19, 1487. It also coincides with the feast of the assumption of Mary just four days earlier. Ever since the end of the 19th century, a procession in honor of Our Lady of Victory has also been held, in which participants wear apparel from the period in which the Monarchs overtook Malaga. There’s also a “day fair”, celebrated all over the city center, and a lively “night fair” that takes place in the Cortijo de Torres. Over two million people go to the Feria de Málaga each year.

Carreras de Caballos9. Carreras de Caballos

Andalusia has a strong tradition of rearing horses, and nowhere is that more true than in Cádiz. Jerez de la Frontera is the home of the Royal Andalusia School of Equestrian Art. Not far from the school, during the first and third weeks of August, a series of unique sea side horse races take place on the beaches at Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Races don’t follow a fixed schedule, as the timing of the races depends on the ebb and flood of the tide.

Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca10. Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca

These fiestas are celebrated in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque country. Festivities begin August 4 in the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, where thousands of participants sporting traditional local attire anxiously await the magical descent of Celedón, a doll of a coal maker who flies over the town square by means of an umbrella to arrive to the fiesta. As soon as he touches ground, the excited party-goers promptly pop open countless bottles of cava and shower one another with the sparkling white wine, effectively kicking off six days of celebrations filled with concerts, traditional Basque sports, markets, wine, and Basque cooking traditions.    

Keywords: spanish festivals,viking festival,spanish fiesta,spanish festival,feria de malaga,spain in august,spanish fiestas


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