I love the holidays in Seville, which is good, because here they last from December to early June. The attitude seems to be: Why skimp on the fun? While many of these holidays are based on Catholic religious festivals, their roots are far older, lying deep in way our most ancient ancestors celebrated of the turning of the year and the coming of spring, making their appeal universal. So wherever you live and whatever traditions you honor, there’s no reason you can’t party like the Sevillanos. And the fiestas are just getting started...
Christmas, December 24 through January 6
Nothing says “sweet Jesus” quite like an all chocolate Nativity scene with a waterfall and lake of honey and some white chocolate swans. Historically inaccurate? Looking more like Babylon than Bethlehem? Who cares? The Sevillanos love their Nativity scenes. And family gatherings. On December 24 they hold a big family dinner, but this is just the warm-up for the main event on January 6.
New Year’s Eve, December 31
Want better luck in 2014? Then underneath your New Year’s Eve party duds, you’d better don red undergarments that you’ve received as a gift; they are sold everywhere in styles that range from nice to very naughty indeed. And at midnight, you’ll swallow one grape at each toll of the bell. This is harder than it sounds; be sure to peel the grapes ahead of time.
Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings), January 5 & 6
In Spain, the Three Kings bring gifts to good boys and girls on January 6th, and on the eve of that happy event, the Cabalgata (Cavalcade) sweeps through Seville, distributing 80,000 kilos (176,000 pounds) of candy from 33 glittering floats. No Cabalgata in your neighborhood? Try throwing candy out the window to your kids and/or friends; they’ll soon get into the spirit of the season!
Semana Santa, the week before Easter
Every year 55 magnificent processions wind through the city day and night, with statues of a bleeding Jesus and a weeping Mary, and an entourage of nazarenos dressed in robes and conical hats (the ones that inspired the KKK outfits), making it pretty spooky around here, especially at night. For a homemade version of the festival, minus the hoods and the robes, see Cruz de Mayo below.
Feria de Abril, two weeks after Semana Santa
During this week-long marathon of all-night drinking and dancing, women dress up in eye-popping trajes de flamenca (flamenco outfits), long, skin-tight sheaths that erupt at the knee into cascades of enormous ruffles in vivid colors and patterns, mostly polka dots. No Feria in your town? Wear polka dots and stay up all night dancing and sipping ribujitos (very dry sherry mixed with a soft drink like 7up).
Romería del Rocío, held around Pentecost (49 days after Easter)
A pilgrimage to honor a sacred effigy of the Virgin in a vast wooded park, this fiesta involves walking or riding in an ox cart for days, wearing a looser style of the traje de flamenca, and partying under the stars late into the night. Don your polka dots, take a long walk in the country, than gather outdoors for cold beer and hot dancing.
Cruz de Mayo, May & early June
Now it’s the kids’ turn to stage processions, usually little home-made floats with a wooden cross carried by the neighborhood boys while the girls collect money to pay for the materials. If your kids don’t seem keen to try this, you can always revert to a Romería del Rocío party, which occurs around the same time.
With these holidays, Seville marks the entire transition from the shortest, darkest days of winter to the full blossoming of summer, from the dying of the old year to the coming of age of another generation of children. They believe that every day is something to celebrate, and I’m with them all the way on that. Cheers!
12/26/2013 09:44:22 am
I love all the holidays. And if the ones you describe aren't enough, there is always the surprise of a raggedy band suddenly appearing on the streets blasting away!
12/27/2013 01:40:33 am
So true, Nancy! The bands pop up seemingly at random, and lately we've had an influx of really talented street musicians; I think they're fleeing colder weather up north. So the streets are filled with classical music, pop duos, and of course, gypsies playing the Anniversary Waltz and Besame Mucho. I love having a sound track for my day!
12/27/2013 01:44:48 am
Yes, there's never a dull moment around here. These big holidays burst on the scene like skyrockets, eclipsing everything else for a while. And just when you start to settle down again, along comes another one. Keeps us all on our toes!
12/26/2013 01:18:19 pm
Oh...how I miss Seville and you and Rich! We will miss you at our ' New Beginnings' New Years Eve party but will be thinking of you. Love, Anne and David
12/27/2013 01:47:08 am
Anne & David, have you asked all your guests to wear their red undergarments and be prepared to chug 12 grapes at midnight? I'm sure they'd appreciate the luck these traditions bring!
12/27/2013 08:09:10 am
"New Kid" I wish you and your wonderful &talented wife Karen a very happy, joyous, and healthy holiday season and the same for the second half of the year as well. Love the blog and keeping up with "y'all" during the year. cheers and "fair winds and a following sea"...Glad you continue to seek out the best pubs. Do any really stand up to the Phu Quoc Junk Beer Hall??
12/29/2013 12:03:50 pm
Welcome back home Karen and Rich! I'm sure by now you're back into the swing of things here in good 'ole Sevilla.
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
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