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The truth about Spanish Fiestas - Success is in the planning

By Mr Grumpy - Sun 8th Aug 2010

There seem to be hundreds of well-meaning travel websites and holiday guides out there who paint a rosy picture of the idyllic Spanish fiesta, but in all my years in Spain I have never once come across this stereotype – if indeed it exists at all. That’s not to say that they are not enjoyable events – just that an unsuspecting foreigner is often left wondering what the protocol is for attending, or even helping out at a fiesta, and that it is only by taking part (as opposed to looking on passively) that you can truly say that you have ‘experienced’ a Spanish Fiesta.

After my recent experiences of our local fiestas I decided to put pen to paper (If that’s possible for an online blog, but you know what I mean ...) to give my ‘warts and all’ account of the fiestas held in our local village.

First of all, it needs to be said that Fiestas are unique to each and every town and village, so I am not for one moment trying to claim that my account is representative of every fiesta and every town and village here in Spain. (Backside skilfully covered there, I think...)

Our village is some 20 Kms inland from the Costa, so we are far enough inland not to have too large an expat population, and as such the fiesta is generally for the benefit of the local population, as opposed to being staged by the town hall for the benefit of the tourists. We do get some holidaymakers, but they are generally few enough not to make a nuisance of themselves.

The Fiestas generally last for 2 weeks, with the first week comprising of things like bands, concerts, Giant Paellas, communal Coca’s (a Kind of Spanish Pizza for want of a better description) and various parades etc... Fiestas also have a religious significance, celebrating the official day of the towns Patron Saint, and as such church services and the church itself play a central role over the fortnight. The 2nd week is basically given over to the running of the bulls twice per day.

Because the fiestas are held on the same two weeks every year you can pretty much block off your diary to ensure that you will not miss out on anything, and preparation starts for the next year’s fiesta almost as soon as the current one ends.

The committee responsible for the organisation and fundraising to pay for the fiestas are called the ‘Festeros’ and are made up of a dozen or so of the local kids who are in their final year of school, and an equal number of the Village elders. They all hold various events throughout the year in order to raise money and get sponsorship to pay the various bands, arrange the communal paella, hire in the disco for the kids and so on...

In some cases the Festeros will call round door to door asking for donations – especially if they have a shortfall in the required funds a few weeks before the festivities are due to begin. This can be as much as 60 Euros per household, and whilst there is no obligation to pay up most people do. If nobody calls to ask for a donation it is usually a sign of how successful they have been in raising the required funds for that year (or how miserable the fiesta’s are likely to be!).

Maybe one month before the Fiestas are due to commence the programme of events is published, which details exactly what will happen on what day, and in which part of the village it will take place, the name of the band booked to play etc.... or which local business will be sponsoring the event. These guides are available from your local Tourist Information office (if you have one) or the Town Hall – and quite often available online (Most Town Hall websites are simply the name of the Town, using the regional as opposed to national spelling, and then ending in ‘.es’).

It is not unusual for many people to take the whole 2 weeks off work and stay at home to spend the time with their families, basically taking the holiday at home, and it is definitely a family event.

There are so many different sides and characteristics to a typical fiesta that it would be impossible to describe them all in just the one blog, so I will do my best to tell you a little bit about their various elements in later blogs.

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