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The fiestas and traditions of Spain have been listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO

  • Falla in Valencia © Turespaña

    Falla in Valencia © Turespaña

  • Festival of the Courtyards in Cordoba © Turespaña

    Festival of the Courtyards in Cordoba © Turespaña

  • Tamborada, Holy Week in Calanda. Teruel © Junta Coordinadora de la Semana Santa de Calanda

    Tamborada, Holy Week in Calanda. Teruel © Junta Coordinadora de la Semana Santa de Calanda

  • Summer solstice festivals in the Pyrenees, Lleida. © Oriol Clavera

    Summer solstice festivals in the Pyrenees, Lleida. © Oriol Clavera

  • Fiestas of Mare de Déu, Algemesí © Rafa Esteve

    Fiestas of Mare de Déu, Algemesí © Rafa Esteve

  • La Patum in Berga © Oriol Llauradó. Agència Catalana de Turisme

    La Patum in Berga © Oriol Llauradó. Agència Catalana de Turisme

  • «Misterio de Elche» mystery play, Alicante © Paco Cascales. Visit Elche

    «Misterio de Elche» mystery play, Alicante © Paco Cascales. Visit Elche

  • «Castells» or Human Towers, Tarragona © Manel R. Granell. Turismo de Tarragona

    «Castells» or Human Towers, Tarragona © Manel R. Granell. Turismo de Tarragona

  
  


"Some popular fiestas are representative of those who celebrate them. Other traditions have survived the passing of time and are an example of the local culture of different areas and regions. ..."

Some popular fiestas are representative of those who celebrate them. Other traditions have survived the passing of time and are an example of the local culture of different areas and regions. Just like with monuments and landscapes, UNESCO also recognises these types of cultural traditions that are worthy of preserving and enjoying. These are the fiestas and traditions in Spain that have been designated as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In spring

Las Fallas of Valencia. In the days leading up to 19 March, Las Fallas transform the city of Valencia as it prepares to greet the arrival of spring. The main streets and squares are ablaze with excitement with giant satirical papier-mache sculptures (the ‘fallas’), music from the processions of bands and the smell of gunpowder and spectacle of the mascletás (dramatic daytime firework displays). The festivities culminate on the night of 19 Match when the fallas are burnt (la cremá).

Tamboradas. Although the tamboradas (drum festivals) are part of many popular festivals all over Spain, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the time when they really come into their own. Thousands of drums (tambores) beat in unison for hours on end, day and night, provoking a deafening boom that soon becomes emotional for those listening. The tamboradas in the towns of Hellín (Albacete), Calanda (Teruel) and Mula (Murcia) are very famous. The drum festival of Donostia-San Sebastián is also renowned and is held on the night of 20 January in honour of the city’s patron saint.

Festival of the Courtyards in Cordoba. The month of May brings the Festival of the Courtyards in Cordoba. This fiesta celebrates the traditional courtyard or patio, a space for family and social life. The residents decorate their courtyards with thousands of flowers and take part in a competition to find the prettiest one. There is also lots of music and flamenco dancing involved in the festival, giving the whole city a great feeling of celebration.

La Patum in Berga. The Festival of La Platum in Berga, in the province of Barcelona, is held between May and June. This tradition, which dates back to the 15th century, has both religious and secular origins. The municipality's streets are filled with parades and theatrical performances. The main event takes place in the Plaza Mayor around the “infierno de fuego” (fiery hell) with demons, angels, dragons, giants and dwarfs dancing between the flames to the beat of the drums.

In Summer

Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees. This festival is held in the towns and villages of the Aragonese Pyrenees (Sobrarbe and la Ribagorza, in Huesca) and in Catalonia (Alta Ribagorza, Berguedá, Pallars Jussà and la Val d’Arán, en Lleida) to welcome summer on 23 June. Known as the “Bonfires of the Pyrenees” all the locals take part in this tradition which revolves around a fire and has different meanings depending on the place where it is held. The custom is for the participants to descend from the highest point of the village with lit torches while they dance and make shapes with the fire. Finally, they light a large bonfire in the centre of the village and the merry-making continues.

Elche mystery play. Held in Elche (Alicante) from 11 to 15 August this musical-religious play dates back to the 15th century. It is staged in the Basilica of Santa María and depicts the death, assumption and coronation of the Virgin. The play, which is performed in Valencian and Latin, is divided into two acts presented on two different days. There are also rehearsals which are open to the public. On even-numbered years, extraordinary plays are also held at the end of October.

La Mare de Déu de la Salut Festival. The town of Algemesí (Valencia) sees out the summer on 7 and 8 September with the festivities in honour of La Mare de Déu de la Salut. The whole town turns out to celebrate this festival with medieval roots, with parades, plays, dance shows and concerts, which attract thousands of visitors. The parades take place in the four historic districts of Algemesí: Valencia, La Muntanya, Santa Bárbara and La Capella.

In autumn

Human towers or “Castells”. The tradition of towers formed by people, capable of reaching up to 10 tiers high are a prominent feature in the multitude of festivals held throughout Catalonia. With over 200 years of history, people of all ages participate in the castells. A spectacular Castells, or human tower contest takes place every year at the end of September and beginning of October in Torredembarra and in the city of Tarragona Access to the event in Torredembarra is free however for the sessions held in Tarragona, in the Tarraco Arena Plaza, entrance tickets are sold online.

In winter

Chant of the Sibyl. The chant of the Sybil, an example of medieval religious folklore which has remained practically unchanged, is performed at matins on the night of 24 December in churches throughout Mallorca. The chant is sung by a boy or girl accompanied by organ music in a ceremony participated by people of different ages, ensuring the tradition is passed on through the generations.

All year round

There are a whole host of other cultural traditions, customs and demonstrations declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO that can be enjoyed all year round.

Flamenco. The song, dance and music that comprise flamenco can be enjoyed at shows, festivals and tablaos (flamenco performance venues) in many regions of Spain. The tablaos in Madrid and in Andalusian cities such as Seville, Cádiz and Granada are especially well known. Some of the most famous flamenco festivals that take place throughout the year include: the Cante de las Minas (in La Unión, Murcia), Seville Bienal de Flamenco and the Community of Madrid's Suma Flamenca festival.

The Mediterranean diet. Spanish gastronomy boasts an extremely healthy diet based on olive oil, fresh, seasonal produce and fruit and vegetables. In all regions you will find delicious recipes based on this type of diet.

The UNESCO list also includes the whistled language of the silbo gomero (an ancient whistled register used by inhabitants of La Gomera (one of the Canary Islands) to communicate over long distances), falconry (the training of birds of prey), the art of dry stone walling (consisting of building stone walls without mortar or any other materials) and the irrigation tribunals of the Spanish Mediterranean (more specifically, the assemblies held in towns in Murcia and Valencia).

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