There is no better way to get to know the Andalucians than through their many and fascinating feast days. The local fiesta is the moment when every town and village strives to put on a splendid show, not only for themselves but also for those who come from afar to admire and enjoy. Over 3,000 fiestas are celebrated every year in Andalucia, including fairs, pilgrimages, carnivals, mock battles between Moors and Christians and religious processions, throughout the some 800 communities of the region.
ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE LOCAL TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICE REGARDING THE VARIOUS FIESTAS, FESTIVALS OR FAIRS IN THE RESORT YOU ARE STAYING IN.
Here is a guide to the major fiestas which take place each year in Andalucia.
The Three Kings
Fiesta de Los Reyes. This is the moment when the three kings of Orient bring their Christmas presents to the children, on the evening of the 5th of January. Three men dress up as the kings, one with a black face, and ride about the town in a procession, scattering sweets to the crowds of excited children. The 6th of January is the public holiday in all Spain.
As elsewhere in the Catholic world, carnival is celebrated before the 40 days of Lent. Most Andalucian towns stage some kind of parade, and there is usually a dance and a "Carnival Queen" contest. As one of Spain´s major ports during the 16th century, Cadiz copied the carnival of Venice, a city with which it had much trade, and since then it has become the liveliest and most dazzling carnival town in mainland Spain, famous for its amusing and creative figurines and satirical song groups.
Easter - Semana Santa or "Holy Week"
The Easter week processions compete with one another in luxury and splendour. The parades leave each of the town´s churches to wind slowly around the streets, with their lifelike statues of Christ on the Cross and his mother the Virgin Mary in mourning. The processions are organised by the religious brotherhoods, representing guilds of tradesmen or other groups. They spend all year long preparing the elaborate costumes and decorations. This is a serious fiesta and fireworks are not permitted. Drinking and celebrating is still frowned upon by many.
Seville Spring Fair
The first of the summer fairs, festivities of the April Fair were born in Seville in 1847 and are a perfect expression of the Andalucian personality. Always two weeks after Easter Week.
May Horse Fair in Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez holds the Jerez May Horse Fair on the first week in May each year, a spectacular equestrian event, the Jerez Horse show takes place in the Gonzalez Hontoria Park. Some of the world's finest horses and riders compete in the endurance trials, coach driving, "pursuit and tumble" and dressage competitions. with a stunning display of the finest horses of the region.
May is a month of festivities in Cordoba, starting with the Crosses of May Festival (1st, 2nd and 3rd of May which is Santa Cruz day). The crosses identify distinct zones of the town which compete for the prize of the best florally decorated cross. The preparations take place secretly in the preceding months when women and children use this opportunity to sing and dance. In older times it was an excuse for young single people to meet. The event is organized by brotherhoods and financed by voluntary contributions in the neighbourhood. With the preparations made the crosses are dressed and the fiesta lasts various days. Representatives from each brotherhood act as judges to vote on the best dressed cross. The local tourist office will give you a map, as in Cordoba you may need help to find the crosses. Other village the dress crosses are Condado de Huelva, Sierra de Aracena, Andevalo, Almonaster la Real, Bonares, Ubrique.
The famous Cordoba Patio Contest (about 4th to 16th May), in which home-owners compete for the prize awarded to the most beautifully decorated patio. The map provided by the local Tourism Office will help you find the competing courtyards which are open to the public during the day. This one is not to be missed for those that like flowers and gardens or are just interested to look inside the patios of private houses.
San Lucar Manzanilla (Wine) Fair
A lively fair dedicated to the Manzanilla which is a special dry sherry wine produced in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This intense fair which is organised by the town council and supported by the local wine producers last for several days about the third week in May.
Andalucia is famous for its pilgrimages or "romerías" - so called because pilgrims traditionally walked to Rome, and therefore became known as "romeros" - to popular shrines, around which fiestas are held.
Corpus Christi (the Catholic feast celebrating the presence of the body of Christ in the holy wafer) is held in June, beginning on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. A solemn and magnificent procession bears the consecrated host through the streets. Although Corpus Christi is celebrated everywhere in Andalucia, it is most famous in Granada, especially for the Granada Festival of Music and Dance, which supplants the passion plays that traditionally followed the religious rituals. Representatives of the local government walk side by side with the churchmen, followed by the people, along streets strewn with sweet-smelling cypress branches and flowers.
The Corpus Christi festival was created in 1246 in Liege, Belgium, and after the Archbishop of that town was elected Pope it was later adopted throughout Europe. It reached Toledo 1280 and in Sevilla 1282 and all Spain by XIV century. It was particularly popular in XVI and XVII centuries. The solemn processions represent the power of the church. The civil and military authorities also take part. All in their commemorative uniform, a colorful spectacle. and takes place in most town in Spain.
Early Summer Pilgrimages
The Madonna known as La Virgen de la Cabeza is enshrined in a forbidding sanctuary on a cliff overlooking the wild hills of the Sierra Morena, north of the city of Andújar in Jaen Province. The pilgrimage is celebrated on the last Sunday of April. This celebration has its origins in the 13th century, and some half a million people gather to see the Virgin paraded among the forests for over 30 kilometres.
La Virgen del Mar (Virgin of the Sea) is the patron saint of Almería, and her statue is born on a carriage decorated with flowers to the hermitage dedicated to her. The most stirring moment of the procession is when she is taken from the lighthouse to the dock by boat.
Town Patrons' Days
Each town has one or two patron saints. There will be a local bank holiday and celebrations on the day of the patron saint of the town according to the catholic calendar.
Grapes are harvested in late August and September, and the event, known as La Vendimia, is often accompanied by a fiesta. The most famous Vendimias are at Montilla near Cordoba,Vendimia de Jerez de la Frontera at La Palma del Condado, in the Province of Huelva, Manilva at the west of the Costa del Sol.
Moors and Christians
This festival is more popular in the East of Spain, in Andalucia in the provinces of Granada and Almeria, It takes place on different many days through out the year depending on the locality. San Sebastian on 20 January, San Roque 15 August, San Antonio on June 13th, as well as in Alfarnate from the 12th to the 16th of September. They also celebrate this festivity in Benalmádena from the 4th to 5th of August, and in Benadalid from the 27th to the 29th of August .