Festivals of Seville
Seville, the third largest city in Spain, plays year-round host to a variety of wonderful festivals. From the clop clop of parading horses to the tap tap of flamenco-ing feet, these festivals celebrate the Spanish and folk traditions which are so internationally famous and popular. And the best part? They are not put on for the tourists; these festivals are celebrated by - and for - the locals who immerse themselves in centuries of Spanish tradition in the traditional Spanish manner: passionately.
The first and most city-stopping of all the festivals is the annual Easter Week celebration, or, Semana Santa as it is known in Spanish. Semana Santa evidences how enlightened are Spain 's social views: the entire city coming to a halt to celebrate. In honor of Christ and the Christian faith, as many as fifty different brotherhoods parade through Seville 's streets carrying ornate pasos (decorated effigies of Christ or the Virgin Mary). Those locals not participating in the procession watch it and for this purpose grandstands are erected throughout the city in front of the major churches.
That is not to say, however, that Semana Santa is all about worship of the Lord. It would not be sacrilegious to consider that the very Christian Semana Santa also pays homage to Bacchus, the Greek god of food and wine. Those Sevillaños (Seville locals) whom are not in or watching the parade spill out of the city's many cafés; eating, drinking, talking and enjoying life all hours of the day and night (except of course during the sacred siesta).
Easter over, the April festivals have only just begun. Seville 's signature festival occurs in the final week of the month: La Feria de Abril (April Fair). This festival, or feria as it is called in Spanish, is a week's worth of Spanish and Gypsy traditional folk custom. It is held in the suburb of Triana, bursting in and around the streets named after famous bullfighters, on the same soil in which it begun over 100 years ago as a cattle market. It has transformed into a world renowned celebration .
The main spectacle of the La Feria de Abril is flamenco and all its colorful expressions. Not only the performers, but the whole city turns out in traditional costume and in a city of almost 1 million people, this makes for a magnificent sight. There are men riding horseback in the formal black and brown riding suits, there are divinely feminine women in frills upon frills of polka-dotted, lace rimmed fabric, oozing beads and sensuality. And everywhere there are casetas, or small houses, erected in red and blue striped canvas, sporting multitudes of tiny lights and housing generations of Sevillaños all dancing, singing, eating, drinking, and talking.
One of the most delightful sights is the middle-aged, still gorgeous women, in all of their flamenco finery instructing the children in how to dance the Sevillana (the local, popular version of flamenco) and traditional flamenco.
The other major festival of Seville is the Bienal de Arte Flamenco (Biennial of Flamenco Art), which takes place on even years. Usually present are the leading figures of flamenco singing, dancing and guitar. Held in September through to October, this is a world class music festival that engulfs the heart and soul, providing such a succulent musical and cultural feast as to inspire one and all.
Other minor festivals in Seville include:
- Day of Immaculada, 7 th or 8 th of December. An old tradition in which all of the Tunas (student fraternities) come together in traditional dress about the statue of the Virgin Immaculada to sing traditional songs.
- La Danza de los Seises, morning of 8th or 9th December. A dance by children in traditional dress about the Virgin.
- The Procession of the three Magi, evening of the 5th of January. Horse-drawn coaches pass through the city distributing small gifts and sweets to the children.
Remember that accommodation is more difficult to obtain during times of the major festivals - it is wise to book in advance.
Chelsea is an Australian freelance writer and photographer who has made Seville her home. This article has been commissioned by Babylon Idiomas, a Spanish language school that offers courses to learn Spanish in Seville.