If you choose to embark on the Camino Frances during the summer period, chances are you can join in one of the celebrations below! From the ascension celebrations to the Rioja harvest, immerse yourself in the culture of northern Spain! Here are some festivals and traditions on the Camino de Santiago.
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1. The feast of the Apostle Saint James – Santiago de Compostela
Each year, on July 25, we celebrate the Apostle Saint James in Compostela. This day is also the regional festival of Galicia. Saint James was one of the first disciples of Jesus. The first Catholic martyr, he helped spread Christianity and became the Patron Saint of Spain.
If Saint James’ Day is officially July 25, the festivities begin about ten days before! And they continue for about two weeks. On the program, exhibitions, plays, street performances and concerts. The atmosphere is simply incredible in Santiago de Compostela during the celebrations!
On July 24 at noon, the bells of the cathedral ring to announce the festivities that will take place that evening. The Obradoiro Square lights up. Visitors can then enjoy a unique sound and light show! The impressive projections made on the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the fireworks show at the end of the evening are breathtaking.
From the 25th, popular concerts and balls invade the streets of the city to celebrate the holy man. Obradoiro Square is not enough to contain the crowd. A mass is celebrated in the cathedral, and an offering is made to the Saint. Then comes the Botafumeiro ceremony. The censer weighing more than 50 kg oscillates at high speed to fill the place with a sweet smell of incense.
And what is on the menu during these festive days? The famous Galician cuisine of Santiago tarta, but also octopus in all sauces!
The feast of the Apostle Saint James attracts thousands of people every year. Do not miss the parades, fairs, traditional crafts, regional dances and bagpipes (the famous gaitas)!
2. The Ascension Day – Santiago de Compostela
The Ascension celebrations are the prelude to the patronage festivities of July 25. The dates of these festivals are variable (in May), as they correspond to the religious celebrations which take place each year on the 6th Thursday after Easter Sunday .
This festival, which lasts about a week or so, is one of the most attractive in the city. The Ascension celebrations, which last for 4 days, are among the favorites of the inhabitants of Santiago.
The festivities include cultural and fun events, and are very popular with university students who take the opportunity to have fun before the end-of-year exams.
On the program, a festive atmosphere and events for all audiences. You cannot miss the cattle fair (the most important of the year) and the equestrian exhibitions in the Santiago Exhibition Center (recto ferial de Amio). Also enjoy concerts, parades, plays and fireworks!
During these festivals, it is customary to eat “pulpo de feira” octopus in one of the “pulpeiras” stands that are set up in Alameda Park.
3. Festivities of San Fermín – Pamplona
The feasts of San Fermín are celebrated every year from July 6 to 14, in honor of the Patron Saint of the foral community, Saint Firmin.
For 9 days, around 3 million people find themselves in the streets of Pamplona. On this occasion, the inhabitants put on a white outfit, enhanced with a scarf and a red belt.
Here are 5 highlights not to be missed during the Saint Firmin celebrations:
- Attend the “chupinazo“! On July 6, at noon, the rocket (chupinazo) is launched from the balcony of the town hall, which marks the official start of the San Fermín celebrations.
- Take part in the “encierros“! These bull races were immortalized by Hemingway in his novel The Sun Also Rises. Every morning at 8 a.m., six bulls are released in the streets of the old town.
- Attend the parade of giants! After the morning encierro, around 9:30 am, these gigantic dolls parade and dance in the streets.
- Marvel at the fireworks! They are fired from the Ciudadela every evening at 11 p.m. One of the best viewpoints is the Vuelta del Castillo Park.
- Enjoy the concerts! Three squares host concerts every night: the plaza de los Fueros, the plaza de Compañia and the plaza del Castillo.
4. The harvest of La Rioja – Logroño
On September 21, we celebrate the Patron of Logroño, San Mateo (Saint Matthew). This date marks the start of the La Rioja harvest festivals. During the festivities, the city fills with color and joy, and the region’s wine productions are celebrated.
For a week you can enjoy the gastronomic specialties of La Rioja. Come and see the bullfighting fair, the Basque pelota tournaments, and don’t miss the concerts and fireworks on the Ebro.
On September 21, the harvest ceremony is traditionally held on the Espolón promenade. The grapes from different vineyards are carried by hundreds of children in traditional dress and are poured into a large vat. They are then trampled on to obtain the first must of the season. The juice extracted following this rite of crushing the grapes is collected in a jug by the Master Grape harvesters, and dedicated to the Virgin of Valvanera, patron saint of La Rioja.