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Festivals of Western Europe, by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, [1958], at


ANO NUEVO (New Year) January 1

    Tradition says that the luck of the entire year depends upon the first day. If you have a gold coin in your pocket, there will be plenty of gold during the next twelve months, while empty pockets mean a lean year ahead. If you eat good food and drink good wine, you are certain to have an abundance of food and drink the whole year round. Meeting a rich man is a propitious sign, but coming face to face with a beggar is bad luck.

    Family reunions, visiting, feasting, and the exchange of cards and presents are generally characteristic of the day.

DIA DE LOS REYES MAGOS (Day of the Kings, or Epiphany) January 6

    Children eagerly await Epiphany Eve when the Magi Kings--Gaspar, Melchor and Baltasar--who take the place of Santa Claus to Spanish boys and girls--travel through the land on their way to Bethlehem and leave gifts of sweets and toys.

    On the Eve of Epiphany children fill their shoes with straw or grain and place them on the balconies or by the front door. By morning the horses of the Kings have eaten the food. In its place the monarchs leave cookies, sweets, and all kinds of pretty baubles. Parents often blacken the cheeks of the sleeping children with charcoal. The next day the boys and girls rush to the mirror to see if Baltasar, the Black King, has kissed them in the night.

    At Palma, Mallorca and Las Palmas, Canary Islands, as well as in many cities throughout Spain, people turn out on Epiphany Eve to witness the splendid spectacle of Los Reyes making official entrance into town, to the accompaniment of military bands and drumming by musicians in medieval attire.

    The procession at Palma is a gay torchlight affair. First come the city officials on horseback, then the kingly visitors in Eastern costume. The Kings, who ride horses led by faithful attendants, are followed by retainers in colorful Oriental garb. In the Canary Islands the procession is even more exotic, since there the Kings customarily ride on camels.

    In Madrid groups of men and boys used to go out on Epiphany Eve "to meet the Kings." The men carried a tall ladder and made terrific din on horns, trumpets, and drums, as they went about searching for some credulous person they could induce to join in the search for the Magi. Once a victim was found, he received a belldecked mule collar and was ordered to take the ladder.

    From time to time his tormentors told him to climb the ladder and look about for the Kings. Often the rude jesters let the ladder fall at the risk of the poor simpleton's neck. Such practical jokes finally went so far that city authorities banned the custom of "meeting the kings."

DIA DE SAN ANTON (Day of Saint Anthony) January 17

    Saint Anthony is patron of horses, asses, mules, and other four-footed beasts. On his day farmers in towns and villages throughout Spain decorate their animals with flowers, ribbons, and bells and drive them to a church dedicated to Saint Anthony. There the priest administers a barley wafer to the odd communicants, sprinkles them with holy water and invokes Saint Anthony's blessing against accident and disease during the coming year.

    All day processions of animals pass through the streets, much to the entertainment of bystanders who watch the antics of balky mules, horses, and oxen as they are led toward the sanctuary.

FALLAS DE SAN JOSE (Bonfires of Saint Joseph), in Valencia March 12-19

    Valencia's custom of burning fallas, or bonfires, on March 19, Saint Joseph's Night is said to have originated in medieval times when members of the Carpenter's Guild annually swept out shops and made bonfires of accumulated chips and trash. The burnings were in honor of Saint Joseph, father of Jesus and patron of carpenters.

    Modern Valencia, one of Spain's most famous furniture-making centers, continues the Saint Joseph's Day tradition with at least a week of festivities which feature not only bonfires, but bullfights, parades, and religious processions. The climax of the whole affair is the spectacular midnight burning of over a hundred giant effigies, of canvas, plaster, and papier mache, made over wooden foundations.

    These fallas, ingenious, larger-than life-sized creations, sometimes three or four stories tall, are made by highly skilled craftsmen. The effigies usually have a sharply humorous or ironic twist. They poke fun at some world, national, or local problem, or possibly caricature a well known personality or illustrate a current fad, scandal, or trend. The gigantic figures which are filled with explosives are set up throughout the city--at intersections, in plazas, on top of talt platforms.

    The fallas are executed secretly, months in advance of the festival, under direction of district committees. These committees commission artists to follow plans already approved by the various community groups. Expenses are defrayed by local contributions. Each group, of course, hopes to win the competition for the most clever and original falla. Each year all fallas are burned. A small-scale model of the falla that is popularly accaimed the best is made and placed on permanent exhibition in the local museum.

    Saint Joseph's fiesta commences about a week before March 19, when the City Beadle reads an official proclamation of the event from the City Hall balcony, then from the various public squares. This ceremony, accompanied by shooting of rockets and a great deal of band playing, marks the beginning of a ceaseless round of merrymaking. The city is adorned wlth flowers; balconies are draped with banners and rich tapestries; countless illuminations make night brighter than day, and thousands of people surge through the streets in carnival mood.

    There is a spectacular parade of fallas before they are judged and finally mounted throughout the city on their platforms. A fallas Queen, selected from among Valencia's most beautiful girls, presides over official ceremonies, which include concerts, dancing, banquets, and bullfights.

    On Saint Joseph's Eve, Valencia's young girls from sixteen to twenty years old, carry through the streets the image of the Virgen de los Desamparados, Virgin of the Forsaken, patroness of the city. The girls, dressed in colorful native costume, place flowers at the feet of the statue. This is a striking event, not only because of the beauty of the girls in provincial dress, but because of the vast quantity of flowers--often more than three tons--which is offered before the image.

    The climax of the fiesta comes the following night as the city chimes strike midnight. At this moment bands begin to play, fallas are set afire and fireworks explode. Saint Joseph, patron of carpenters is honored on an immense scale as the effigies of animals, gods, and human beings are silhouetted in changing, flashing color against the midnight sky. For hours the dramatic fires continue amid deafening explosions, bursting rockets, and dancing in the streets.

CARNAVAL (Carnival) The three days preceding Ash Wednesday

    The last three days of Carnival, which culminate the pre-Lenten period of merrymaking and amusement, are devoted to eating and all kinds of entertainment. Every town and village celebrates with bull fights, parades, feasting, masquerades and dancing. Valencia, like many other cities, is the scene of picturesque revelry at this season when orange trees are in bloom and the air is filled with delicious fragrance. Battles of flowers, showers of confetti, and throngs of vendors selling trinkets and sweets crowd the town, which suddenly is transformed into a gigantic fair.

DOMINGO DE RAMOS (Palm Sunday) The Sunday preceding Easter

    Early in the morning people go to church to have palms blessed by the archbishop. The consecrated branches, which come from Elche's famous palm trees, are reverently carried home and fastened to balconies as a protection against storm, lightning, and other evils during the next twelve months.

    Palm Sunday is the occasion of many confirmations. Processions of little white-veiled girls and shy young boys in fresh new suits fill all the streets, as children go to or come from their first communion.

SEMANA SANTA (Holy Week) From Palm Sunday to Easter

    Throughout Spain Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is characterized by deep religious fervor and magnificent processions which are estimated at over three thousand in number. Although some of the most outstanding observances occur in Seville, Granada, Malaga, Cartagena, Murcia and Valladolid, every town and village gives realistic portrayals of the final seven days of Jesus' life. Every Spaniard regardless of age, sex, or social position, participates in the ceremonies.

    Seville's Holy Week processions, which surpass all others in splendor and realism, typify Spain's Semana Santa celebrations. Pasos, or large platforms with life-sized sculptured images portraying different episodes in the Passion story, are brought out of churches and paraded through the streets. The pasos, of Byzantine origin, are of marked originality in Andalusia, those of Seville being the most elaborate and ornamental of any in the country. Each parish has at least one Paso, or group of figures, and one figure of either Christ or the Virgin. Forty eight cofradias, religious lay brotherhoods, or trade guilds, direct Seville's processions. These organizations are very old, many having existed since the Middle Ages. The members dress alike except for the color of their costumes. These are long full silk robes and tall pointed hoods which completely cover the head and face. Two slits are cut for the eyes. Originally the hoods were intended to hide the identity of repentant sinners. Rope or silk girdles
are tied about the waist. Each brother carries an immense lighted beeswax candle throughout the procession.

    Many pasos are masterpieces of fifteenth or sixteenth century wood carving. The Last Supper, the agony in Gethsemane, the trial before Pilate, the Crucifixion--all are represented with remarkable workmanship and attention to realistic detail.

    The pasos, which are very heavy, are borne on the shoulders of sometimes as many as sixty porters, who crouch beneath the platform. The bearers, hidden from view by velvet curtains, shuffle along, unable to see, stopping to rest only when their leader, who walks outside, gives the order.

    The life-sized statues of the Virgin, magnificently arrayed in velvet robes, embroidered with gold and precious gems, are carried beneath rich canopies. Flowers and hundreds of lighted wax taper adorn the platforms and give the Madonnas added splendor and impressiveness.

    "Viva la Macarena," shouts the crowd tumultuously as La Macarena, the Virgin of Good Hope, Seville's most sumptuously decorated image, appears on Good Friday night. The crowd goes mad. Women weep emotionally. Now and again a saeta--an impromptu walling song of sorrow and repentance, delivered in minor key--pierces the darkness. The procession stops. The heavy paso shudders to the ground. The saeta ends and the procession moves once more. This kind of interruption occurs many times during the slow march through the city.

    At last the Macarena is returned to the church which houses her throughout the year. Then the hidden bearers begin tipping the paso up and down and rocking it from side to side, "to make their Virgin dance." The spectators shout and clap their hands in delight. Finally the Macarena is replaced on her altar.

    Easter in Seville, as elsewhere in Spain, begins on Holy Saturday. The church bells, silent since Holy Thursday, peal forth the Resurrection tidings. The black veil shrouding the front of the sanctuary is torn aside, revealing the altar in a blaze of light. Vehicles, immobilized since Holy Thursday, now resume their usual breakneck course through the streets. People discard mourning attire for brightly colored gala clothes. Cabarets open, gypsies dance. The Lenten fast is broken with rich foods and sparkling wines. The joy of the Resurrection is celebrated by colorful bullfights where famous matadors exhibit their skill before thousands of frantically cheering, wildly waving spectators.

FERIAS (Fairs) Some time after Easter

    After Easter many Spanish cities hold colorful ferias, or fairs, which attract thousands of people from surrounding communities and are celebrated with parades, processions, bullfights, music, folk dancing and, in some places, with livestock markets and exhibits of fine horses and cattle. Trading, however, is incidental to having a good time, meeting old friends, drinking, and enjoying various amusements.

    Each town celebrates its fair with its own customs and in its own individual way. Seville, Jerez, Murcia and Ronda all have famous fairs, as well as many smaller towns all over Spain.

    Seville's Spring Fair is probably the most picturesque of all these events. Many beautiful costumes are seen, for the Sevillian, wearing short jacket and broad brimmed hat, parades through the streets on his most spirited horse. Many times a lovely, dark-eyed sweetheart in high comb, lace mantilla, flower-embroidered shawl and frilly, flounced skirt, rides pillion behind the horseman.

    Jerez, home of the sherry vineyards, and noted for its splendid horses, also celebrates its fair with picturesque cavalcades. As at Seville, the men wear regional costume. Many of the women, in vivid Andalusian dress, ride in flower-decorated open carriages.

    Murcia's feria starts on Easter Monday and continues for four to five days. Battles of flowers, parades, and the traditional Entierro de la Sardina, or Burial of the Sardine, are features of this spring festival. Toward the end of the fair, the Sardine is buried at midnight with great pomp, following a torchlight parade. The meaning of this ancient rite is unknown, but there are some who think the ceremony may have originated in an old fertility custom of burying Winter in early spring.

SAN ISIDRO LABRADOR (Saint Isidore the Ploughman), in Madrid May 10-17

    Madrid honors San Isidro, patron of the capital and of farmers, with eight days of bulifiahts at the Plaza de Toros, colorful parades and street dancing.

    Isidro was reputedly born in the twelfth century, on the site of modern Madrid. Peasants from surrounding towns and villages look upon San Isidro as their friend and patron, for he was a simple peasant like themselves. Legend says he labored for Don Juan de Vargas on a farm outside Madrid. Isidro was a devout, hard working man. Jealous tongues began to wag, however, claiming he was lazy and that he preferred praying to guiding the plough.

    One day the master spied upon his servant. To his amazement, Vargas beheld an angel and a yoke of white oxen ploughing at Isidro's side. The vision finally convinced the master of his servant's faithfulness--for Vargas knew Isidro was beloved of God.

    May 15, Saint Isidro's feast day, is a memorable occasion. In some neighborhoods near Madrid street vendors sell fruits and sweets, pictures of the saint, and little glass or pottery pig bells which when rung are thought to dispel harm from thunder and lightning. Then there are tiny whistle-stemmed glass roses which everyone toots, thus adding a cheery accompaniment to the music, feasting, dancing and general fiesta merriment.

    Although San Isidro is especially loved by the peasants, since 1595 his memory has also been greatly revered by people of high rank. In that year Philip the Third was dying. The remains of the saint were carried in solemn procession to the village where the king lay. The monarch rallied and recovered. From then on, the pious Isidro was honored by the rich and powerful no less than the poor and humble.

LA PROCESION DE LA PENITENCIA (Procession of Penitents), in Roncesvalles, region of Navarre The week preceding Pentecost (Whitsun)

    At Roncesvalles, in the Pyrenees near the French border, the week before Pentecost is annually observed by black-clad penitents, with crosses tied to their backs, who toil up the steep pass to attend mass at the Monastery of Roncesvalles. The penitents come from five surrounding villages. On each of five separate days one of the five parishes performs its penitential march.

    Tradition says this procession originated long ago as an act of penance among twenty-three families seeking atonement for sins committed during the year. The penitents wear black robes and hoods having only slits for the eyes. The men stretch out their arms to support the heavy crosses. As the penitents make their weary two-mile ascent from the village to the monastery they chant a Miserere which echoes solemnly through the hills.

ROMERIA DEL ROCIO (Pilgrimage of the Dew), in Almonte, region of Andalusia Friday before Pentecost to the Tuesday following

    The Romeria del Rocio, or Pilgrimage of the Dew, is one of Spain's gayest and most picturesque processions. It is in honor of the Virgin known as La Blanca Paloma, the White Dove, at the Santuary of El Rocio, in Almonte in the province of Huelva. For days preceding Whitsunday roads all over Andalusia are crowded with caravans of two-wheeled, white-hooded farm carts, flower-decked and oxen-drawn. Entire families occupy the high swaying wagons, for this romeria is half-pilgrimage and half-picnic. Often pretty girls, in embroidered shawls and ruffled, coin-dotted crinolines, sit in the open backed, bower-like wagons and flirt with their mounted escorts who ride beside them. Many times, however, sweethearts ride pillion behind the men, who sit, proud and erect in close-fitting white jackets and stiff, broad-brimmed hats.

   Every town or village represented by a lodge of the Brotherhood of the Dew has a separate cavalcade which joins the passing procession. Each group is preceded by a cart with its own image of the Virgin. These lovely moving shrines, covered with white silk and decorated with flowers and wax tapers, are also drawn by oxen. The beasts with their tinkling bells, their flowers and ribbon streamers, are as picturesque as the rest of the procession. Many pilgrims, carrying colorful standards, walk beside the wagons.

    The rapidly growing procession of rocking covered carts and people in regional costumes moves slowly through the countryside. At night the pilgrims camp beside their wagons, in fields or ancient olive groves. The older women busy themselves with preparing suppers of spicy sausages, fresh crusty bread and native wine, while youths and girls walk hand in hand beneath the gnarled and twisted trees. As night falls and the stars come out, guitar strings are plucked and the still air is filled with sounds of laughter, dancing feet and songs that originated in Moorish times.

    On Whitsunday pilgrims with lighted tapers and embroidered standards file past the church of El Rocio and pay homage to the small statue of La Blanca Paloma. At midniaht there are fireworks, then dancing and singing until dawn.

    Monday brings the climax of the festival, when the image of the Virgin is carried in solemn procession through Almonte's streets. Pilgrims reverently bear the statue on their shoulders--a highly-coveted privilege, sought by those wishing special indulgence during the coming year. The progress of the image through the streets is accompanied by the chanting of priests and hoarse shouts of "Viva la Blanca Paloma" from hundreds of devout pilgrims. At last the Virgin, her annual tour of the town completed, is returned to her place of honor on El Rocio's altar.

    Throughout the night and the day following, cavalcades again crowd the country roads. Again one hears music and laughter. But the romeria is over for another twelve months. Now a tinge of sadness creeps into the songs that rise hauntingly at night from the dim shadows of the ancient olive trees.

CORPUS CHRISTI (Corpus Christi), in Sitges, region of Catalonia The Thursday after Trinity Sunday

    Days before Corpus Christi inhabitants of Sitges, the little fishing town some twenty-five miles south of Barcelona, start harvesting the vast fields of flowers for which the locality is famous. Carnations, roses, bougainvilleas, sunflowers, and violets--all are needed to make the fragrant flower carpet which marks the processional path of the Sacred Host.

    Early in the morning of the festival day all Sitges starts making the flower carpet. People of each block execute their own design, which has been made in secret, in the hope of winning a coveted money prize. The patterns, which are varied and elaborate, first are chalked on the streets, then filled in with thousands of fresh flower petals. The resulting flower tapestry is sprinkled with water from time to time to keep it fresh. There are colorful geometrical arrangements which glow with the beauty of Oriental rugs; sacred pictures of David and Goliath, or Saul playing his harp; flags and intricate heraldic motifs, or full-rigged ships ploughing across azure seas.

    No foot touches the completed carpet until evening when the procession of the Holy Eucharist emerges from the church. People kneel in adoration beside the street as the Host, accompanied by chanting priests and richly robed church dignitaries, is carried beneath a sumptuously embroidered canopy. The spring night is heavy with the fragrance of crushed flower petals, dripping beeswax, and pungent incense all intermingled with the soft smell of the sea.

    The Eucharist passes. Bells ring, rockets flare and musicians, beating out an old melody on little drums, lead forth the gigantes. These are fifteen- to twenty-foot-tall effigies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, dressed in robes of crimson velvet, with gold crowns upon their heads. The figures (which are popular at most Spanish fiestas) jig, dance, and whirl upon the shoulders of stalwart men hidden inside.

    At last the King and Queen lead off the dance of the evening and return to the Town Hall. Then the people of Sitges take over with the sardana, the ancient Catalonian circle dance which has many beautiful figures and variations.

    The inhabitants of Orotava, in the Grand Canary Islands, like those of Sitges, also celebrate Corpus Christi by covering their streets with flower petal carpets. Throughout Spain the festival is observed with splendor, especially in such places as Barcelona, Gerona, Cadiz, Toledo, Granada, Seville and Valencia. Nowhere, however, is the scene more beautiful than when the Sitges procession of the Eucharist passes at dusk over the carpet fashioned from millions of sweet scented petals.

LA VISPERA DE SAN JUAN (Saint John's Eve) June 23

    "Saint John's is the feast for youth" declared a stout, middleaged Mallorcan. "I remember how as a young man I used to think the sun danced with joy on his day; for, after all, was it not Saint John who baptized our Lord?"

    Throughout Spain, la Vispera de San Juan is dedicated to youth, and also, to fire and water. Fireworks are widely displayed and hogueras, or bonfires, lighted in honor of San Juan, saint of the summer solstice. Everywhere, also, old folk sayings and delightful old practices surround the anniversary of the kindly Juan, whose name is borne by many Spanish men. Pastry shops do a brisk business in making name's day cakes, many of which are baked in J-shape and decorated with pink sugar roses and elaborate scrolls. All day on June 23 and 24 people scurry through the streets with large cardboard boxes containing cake offerings for Juans. The Juans, meanwhile, take the day off from work and settle down to enjoyment of their festival with feasting and gatherings of relatives and friends.

    According to tradition, if people walk through the dew or bathe in the sea on this day, the skin will be lovely and the body healthy and strong. Young girls resort to charms and omens, for San Juan is said to help one look into the future. One favorite device is to place a bowl of water outside the window and break an egg into the water just at midnight. A clever girl can readily read her destiny in the shape the egg assumes. Another method is to pour melted lead into a bowl at noonday. If the lead looks like a scythe the future mate will be a farmer; a hammer shows he will follow the carpenter's trade, while a fish indicates his living will come from the sea.

    San Juan's is considered a good time for sowing, and when the sun shines on his day, nuts will be abundant during the coming year.

    On El Dia de San Juan, Saint John's Day, it is customary at San Pedro Manrique, in the province of Soria, for youths to jump barefoot across bonfires, with another person on their backs.

XIQUETS DE VALLS (Human Towers of Valls), in Valls, region of Catalonia June 24

    One of the most spectacular Saint John's Day celebrations takes place in the city of Valls, where a Catalan comparsa, or traveling acrobatic company, presents the Xiquets de Valls, the "human towers of Valls."

    The towers are formed by dancers who stand on each others shoulders, often making figures that rise to eight times a man's height. Four or five men may form the base of one of these astonishing human edifices, while one or more children stand at the top. The pila de sis, always a popular figure, stands to the height of six men, upon a base of six. The actors make all their figures in rhythm to the musical accompaniment of the gralla, the sharp-noted native oboe.

    The climax of the act comes when the children on top of the structure salute the audience. Suddenly the music ceases. For a few seconds the human tower stands immobile. Then, with incredible ease and swiftness, the great pyramid falls apart.

FIESTA DE SAN FERMIN (Feast of Saint Fermin), in Pamplona, region of Navarre July 6-20

    For centuries Pamplona, city of San Fermin, in the province of Navarre, has celebrated its patron's feast with bullfights. Legend says that the modern dangerous custom of running bulls through the town on July 6 originated in olden times, when the city's standard bearer led bulls through the streets to the arena. He was assisted by men who prodded the animals from behind to keep them on their course. Later, we are told, scatter-brained boys, eager to display their daring, began rushing out before the bulls and plaguing them into charging.

    Quite aside from the custom's origin, animals destined for killing in San Fermin bullfights are not taken to the Plaza de Toros in closed stalls, according to usual procedure. Instead, the snorting, angry beasts are turned loose from the corral in early morning and coursed through the town to the ring by a wild, teasing, tantalizing crowd of daredevil youths. Now and then the young men strike the bulls or pull their tails, thus infuriating the animals to the point of attack.

    Immense crowds regard the helter skelter, heaving mass of bulls and the reckless, yelling youths from the safety of barricades, balconies, and windows. Later in the day everyone attends the afternoon corrida and witnesses the killing of the bulls by some of the world's champion matadors.

    Between the afternoon fight and the next day's bull running everyone in Pamplona attends contests by men dancing to the accompaniment of native flute and drum. Many of the participants, dressed in the typical northern Spanish costume, consisting of white shirts and trousers, with red kerchiefs and sashes, carry handsome fraternity banners inscribed with words, Viva San Fermin.

    Parades of the gigantes are another great holiday attraction for the crowd, while firework displays enliven all plazas and squares at midnight. Merrymaking, feasting, and dancing continue until dawn, when the bulls again run through Pamplona's streets.

FIESTA DE SANTIAGO APOSTOL (Feast of Saint James the Apostle), in Santiago de Compostela, region of Galicia July 25

    On July 25 and the days following, the anniversary of Saint James the Apostle--patron of Spain and of the city of Santiago de Compostela--is celebrated widely, but with greatest splendor in the city itself. Religious pilgrimages, secular processions, bullfights and the famous La Fachada fireworks display, all combine to make this one of the country's most spectacular events.

    Since the eleventh century pilgrims from all parts of the world have traveled the Pilgrim's Way, or the "Way of Santiago," to kneel before the saint's tomb in the crypt of Santiago de Compostela's twelfth-century cathedral.

    The twelfth-century Calixtine Codex describes the steady flow of pilgrims to the sanctuary in terms that might almost apply to modern times; for today, also, people bring their own musical instruments and speak many different dialects:

    Some sing to the sound of the zither, others to that of the lyres, others to that of the kettledrums, others to trumpets, others to fiddles, others to British reels, others, to psalms, others to divers types of musical instruments.

    There is no language or dialect which is not heard there. The doors of the basilica do not close, neither in the daytime, nor at night, when the darkness never shrouds the holy place, which glows as in the daytime, with the light of lamps and wax tapers.

    The fame of Santiago de Compostela rests on the ancient tradition that Santiago (Saint James the Apostle), Son of Zebedee, visited Spain in the first century. For seven years he walked the length and breadth of the land, preaching Christianity to the heathen inhabitants. He then returned to the Holy Land, where he suffered martyrdom. Later, followers returned the Apostle's body to Spain, where they buried it in the Holy Mountain, close to modern Compostela.

    For a time the grave was venerated. Then the Roman persecution of Christians began and the holy spot, neglected at first, was finally lost. Many futile attempts were made through the years to find the grave. Finally, the legend goes, in the ninth century, its position was miraculously revealed by a star. A shrine was erected on the spot. About it a town grew up--Sant-Yago, or Saint James, of Compostela, the "field of the star."

    Saint James the Apostle not only became patron of the country but of the Order of the Knights of Santiago. On July 25 a sumptuous procession of the Order follows the Archbishop, dressed in silver vestments, as he enters the Cathedral nave. The chief feature of the impressive religious ceremony is the swinging of the Botafumetro, the six-and-a-half-foot tall censer which is supported by cords from a metal base in the dome. The immense censer (which is kept in the Cathedral Library, except for special occasions) is swung above the transept in a hundred- and-thirty-foot arc, to the almost barbaric accompaniment of wooden chirimias, or Arab oboes.

    During the Middle Ages it was customary to use a botafumeiro during pilgrimages to purify the air in the Cathedral when hundreds of people were gathered for worship.

    Fireworks, singing, and Galician bag-piping are all part of the secular observance of Santiago's Feast.

EL MISTERIO DE ELCHE (Mystery Play of Elche), in Elche, region of Valencia August 14 and 15

    Each year on the Feast of the Virgin's Assumption, Elche's Church of Santa Maria is the scene of a medieval drama, El Misterio de Elche, the Mystery Play of Elche, which is performed from a raised platform in the sanctuary transept.

    The first part of the play is given on August 14; the second on August 15. The theme, of Apocryphal origin, centers about the Death and Assumption of the Virgin. Some think that the Misterio (which many consider one of Spain's greatest religious dramatic survivals) dates from 1226; others claim it originated in 1370. The score has been variously attributed to Gines Perez de Orihuela, an organist at the Cathedral of Valencia, in 1581, and to the anonymous author of a manuscript dating after 1639.

    All parts in the remarkable liturgical drama are taken by male singers, female roles being sung in the high soprano of young boys. The language used is the traditional Limousin dialect.

    The first part of the play opens with the appearance of Mary and the Holy Women, to the accompaniment of trumpets, bells, and organ. The conclusion of the first day's mystery comes when the Virgin dies and the araceli, or throne carried by five angels, descends from above to secretly bear Nuestra Senora's soul to heaven. This act is interpreted by an angel chorus, followed by the thundering of organ, flageolets, bells, and crackers.

    In the second part of the Misterio the dead Virgin is buried after some moments of struggle between Apostles and Jews. Then the Gate of Heaven opens. The araceli with the five angels descends for a second time and takes away the Virgin. Our Lady is crowned at the heavenly portal as trumpets resound, the organ bursts out triumphantly, bells ring, and crackers explode.

    On September 15, 1951 El Misterio de Elche, also called La Festa, was proclaimed a national festival.

FIESTA DE LA VENDIMIA (Vintage Feast), in Jerez de la Frontera, region of Andalusia Some time in mid-September

    The Fiesta de la Vendimia, or annual thanksgiving for the grape harvest, is held in Jerez Cathedral, in honor of Saint Gines de la Jara, patron of vineyards.

    The fiesta opens with brilliant cavalcades, featuring the magnificent Andalusian-bred horses. The horsemen, wearing wide-brimmed Cordovan hats, close fitting black jackets with neck and wrist ruffles of white, and handsome leather boots, ride through the town beside the open flower-decked carriages of the women. The girls are strikingly beautiful in their deeply flounced polka-dotted frocks and sheer lace mantillas draped over high carved combs.

    The morning is devoted to church services and parades of the horsemen and girls. In the afternoon there are bullfights, horse racing, and other sports events; but in the evening people sit and sip the famous golden sherry of Jerez and listen to the haunting improvisations of flamenco singers. As darkness deepens and the stars come out, guitars begin to strum and couples dance until dawn of the soft September night.

VIRGEN DEL PILAR (Virgin of the Pillar), in Saragossa, region of Aragon October 11-21

    The annual Feast of the Virgin of the Pillar commemorates an ancient legend that the Virgin appeared in Saragossa to Santiago, or Saint James the Apostle, when he was laboring to evangelize Spain. According to tradition, the Virgin revealed herself from the top of a pillar. The Apostle interpreted the vision as meaning he should build a chapel at the place where the column stood.

    Nuestra Senora del Pilar, one of Saragossa's two cathedrals, is thought to occupy the site of Santiago's original sanctuary. This great pilgrimage center for people from far and near, has a chapel dedicated to a fourteenth-century statue of the Virgen del Pilar.

    The Feast is observed by special masses and processions in honor of El Pilar. Fireworks, dancing and parades of the Gigantes and Cabezudos, Giants and Dwarfs, are important in the secular part of the celebration. The giant and dwarf figures, which are housed at the Lonja, or Exchange, during the year, are brought out for special occasions. The gigantes--some of them twenty to thirty feet tall--are walking cardboard and canvas figures, concealing men who dance and perform to the traditional music of the gralla, or flute, and tamboril, or small drum. The giants often represent Spanish kings and queens, or famous literary and historical figures. The cabezudos, on the other hand, are grotesque dwarfs with immense heads. These puppets caricature different professions or personalities.

    Contests of the jota, Aragon's regional folk dance are a feature of this feast of the Virgen del Pilar. There are several exciting variations of this supposedly Moorish dance, which is performed to the passionate musical accompaniment of guitars, mandolins, and lutes.

NOCHEBUENA (Christmas Eve) December 24

    Almost every Spanish town and village celebrates Nochebuena, the Good Night, as Christmas Eve is called, with elaborate markets. Streets and plazas are crowded with stalls where livestock is sold. Country people exhibit squawking turkeys and quacking ducks. Thoroughfares are lined with stalls heaped high with oranges, lemons, melons and bananas, flowers of every color, children's toys, piles of turron, mazapan, chocolate and other favorite Christmas sweets.

    Streets are flooded with music and laughter, with the jostling crowd, good-natured men and gaily dressed peasant women; everywhere eager dark-eyed children run from booth to booth admiring, touching, exclaiming over the little nacimientos, or nativity scenes, which hold place of honor in every Spanish home. Some of these scenes are made of cardboard, some of plaster or wood. Many figures of Jesus, the Holy Family and the manger animals are so modestly priced as to be well within the means of even the humblest purse. Others are elaborate in workmanship and sell for large amounts.

    Toward evening crowds on the streets thin out and housewives, with baskets overflowing with foodstuffs and toys, turn homeward to prepare the evening meal. Crude oil lamps are lighted before household altars as families gather about the table for the Nochebuena feast.

    As twelve o'clock strikes, church bells peal forth and everybody hurries to Midnight Mass. Clergy in gorgeous vestments perform the Misa del Gallo, or "Cock Crow Mass," to the accompaniment of hymns and chants by choir boys and priests.

    In some places Nativity plays are a feature of Christmas Eve ceremonies. In most cities, however, the hours between Mass and dawn are devoted to street dancing and singing, for:

Esta noche es Nochebuena,
Y no es noche de dormir,

which means this is Christmas Eve (literally, the Holy Night) and therefore it is not meant for sleep.

NOCHEBUENA EN MONTSERRAT (Christmas Eve Midnight Mass), at the Monastery of Montserrat, region of Catalonia) December 24

    On Christmas Eve pilgrims from many parts of the world come to the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat for Midnight Mass, which is followed by a spectacular procession in honor of the image of the Black Virgin. Tradition says that the wooden image was carved by Saint Luke and brought to Barcelona A.D. 30 by Saint Peter on a missionary expedition to western Europe.

    When the Moors invaded Spain in the eighth century the image was said to have been hidden in a cave among Montserrat's jagged peaks. There the sacred relic remained until the year 880, when the Bishop of Vich tried to have it more suitably placed. Several attempts were made to remove the small statue from the grotto, but all met with failure. Finally it was realized that the Virgin wished to have her chapel built where the image had remained undisturbed for over a hundred and fifty years.

    Today the reputedly miraculous image is enshrined on a marble throne above the high altar of the abbey church, built near the site of the original chapel. The face and hands of Virgin and Child are so blackened by the burning of countless votive tapers throughout the centuries that the ima e has earned the name of La Moreneta, "The Little Black Virgin.

    At the annual Christmas Eve service La Moreneta is carried in a glittering ecclesiastical procession. It is lifted high on a platform surrounded by flowers and candles. The Virgin's image is accompanied by magnificently robed clergy and boys of Montserrat's world-famous Escolania, who sing old Gregorian chants and villancicos, or medieval carols. Since the thirteenth century the monastery has maintained a boys' choir with an average strength of forty voices to sing to the honor of the Virgin before the high altar.

    The setting of the midnight ceremony is both dramatic and symbolic. Montserrat, "toothed and serrated mountain," rises four thousand feet above the Llobregat river valley. Both abbey church and monastery buildings are dwarfed and insignificant in comparison to the awe-inspiring backdrop of gigantic, barren monoliths. These fantastic peaks gave rise to the medieval legend that identified Montserrat with Monsalvat, the sacred mount to which angels carried the chalice from the Last Supper, entrusting it to the care of the "Knights of the Grail."

PASCUA DE NAVIDAD (Feast of the Birth) December 25

    Everybody attends Christmas Day church services after which the holiday is devoted to feasting and merrymaking. For dinner the traditional turkey is eaten in many homes. In rural areas the priest and the doctor receive gifts of turkeys, cakes, and farm produce at this season, while well-to-do people always make a practice of sending food and luxuries to their less fortunate neighbors.

    On Christmas morning it is customary for patrons to receive calls and cards, or little holiday verses, from washerwoman, elevator boy, bootblack, baker's boy, radio service man, garbage collector and many others who have rendered services during the year. It is also usual to receive similar greetings of a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" from many who have rendered no services but hope to be patronized in the year to come. All who present holiday greetings, as well as family domestics, expect to be remembered with aguinaldos, or gifts of money. It is even customary to give presents (although not of money) to the local policeman. In Madrid and other large cities, it is not uncommon to see a policeman on duty surrounded by parcels of all sizes and shapes, as he directs street traffic on Christmas Day.

    Crowds fill streets and plazas, greeting friends and enjoying the holiday processions of the gigantes, or giant figures, which dance to the accompaniment of fife and drum. Often the immense figures appear with a pair of Spanish gypsies, who collect coins and gifts from spectators.

NOCHE VIEJA, New Year's Eve December 31

    New Year's Eve in Spain as elsewhere is devoted largely to merrymaking and parties, to sending the old year out with laughter and song, and to welcoming the new with toasts and gaiety.

    In the vicinity of Jerez, heart of the country's vineyards and of the sherry industry, people hang bunches of grapes from ceiling beams so the fruit will be ready for eating on New Year's Eve. According to old folk tradition, when the clock strikes twelve at midnight on Noche Vieja, everyone swallows twelve grapes, one with each stroke of the hour--as a precaution against witches and evil spirits. This custom of swallowing grapes is widely practiced throughout Spain, and is by no means confined to the Jerez area.

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