The Spanish sure know how to do celebrations, and here are five that language students studying Spanish courses in Spain reckon could definitely brighten up dull periods in the year back home.
Las Fallas, Valencia
This impressive festival takes place each March in Valencia. It’s a week-long assault on the senses, with fireworks, fanfare and famous effigies looming and booming through the town centre. Originally a tribute to Saint Joseph the patron saint of Valencia, this is now a pyromaniac’s delight. Only the best effigy is spared the flames whilst the rest blaze through the night illuminating the revellers below.
Semana Santa and La Feria de Abril, Seville
The beautiful historic and cultural centre of Seville is home to two of the biggest celebrations of the year, which follow hard on the heels of one another. Students from language school Clic Seville in Spain have returned with enthusiastic descriptions of both.
Semana Santa (which is our Holy Week or Easter) is a week of feasting and religious processions, featuring masked parades and enormous floats carrying Roman Catholic figures.
La Feria de Abril loses all sombre pretences and sees hundreds of tents and amusement park rides announcing the arrival of Seville's Feria. Everyone gets into the spirit, dressing in traditional clothes to eat, drink and be merry, whilst dancing the nights away with frenetic flamenco.
Fiesta de San Fermin, Pamplona
Mid-July sees the northern town of Pamplona literally overrun by this festival. The Running of the Bulls was publicised globally by Ernest Hemingway and still thrills intrepid locals and tourists each year. Thousands of locals and visitors brace themselves each morning as they stand in front of a stampeding herd of bulls and sprint through the city’s streets. Olé!
La Tomatina, Buñol
The last Wednesday in August sees one of the most bizarre celebrations in Spain. In Buñol tourists and locals gather for a tomato fight reminiscent of the custard-pie battle at the end of Bugsy Malone.
This surreal spectacle is the culmination of festivities to mark Buñol's patron saint, although its significance is no doubt long lost in the annals of history. The local government sponsors the event and graciously provides more than 88,000 pounds of tomatoes as ammunition.
Regional differences in Spain become apparent in the way towns and cities choose to celebrate. All over Spain, parades, feasts, and carousing mark, in their own way, the anniversary of the day Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for purification, forty days after his birth. Candles symbolise the light of purification but there the similarities between festivities ends.
In Madrid clowns dressed as Andalusian farmers bring out wooden bulls to enact hilarious mock bullfights with outlandish matadors. Everyone drinks the sangria (or bull’s blood) that results. In A Pobra de Trives, Ourense, homemade roasted sausages are cooked on bonfires and passed around.
Horses and parades are used in other towns and, bizarrely, this day of the pure is marked in Almonacid del Marquesado, Cuenca, by hundreds of devils jumping and prancing through the streets.
The Telegraph - La Tomatina
See the chaos of the world’s biggest tomato fight in pictures
YouTube - Fiesta de San Fermin
Watch how the city celebrates on its feet as the bulls head through town
Find out more about Spanish celebrations