Festivals & Fiestas in Granada
It is no secret that Spaniards love to party; and, after many centuries of regular practice, they know how to do it in fine style!
In addition to traditional religious events, most villages and towns have an annual feria, a week of fun and festivities complete with street parties, parades, live entertainment, and traditional funfair amusements. Noise, dance, colour, music, fireworks and dessing up are the order of the day - or, rather, the night, as fiestas in Spain tend to carry on well into the small hours.
Spanish festivals, and the customs attached to them, tend to be a little (or more than a little) on the bizarre side. Take, for example Valencia's "Las Fallas" (the Festival of Fire), or "La Tomatino" - the Tomato Fight Festival (watch video clip). Then there is Barcelona's patron saint festival, "La Merced" (also known as "Devil's Night"), a surreal extravaganza featuring dragons, fires, explosions and female devils. Another bizarre festival is Cascamorras, held on the first week of September each year in the towns of Baza and Guadix (Granada province), which involves people throwing paint and water at each other. And what could be more weird than the Fiesta of Near Death Experience, celebrated every 29th July in As Neves, Galicia? On this day, lucky survivors - individuals who have narrowly escaped death by injury or illness - are carried through the streets of the town in their coffins!
Talking of near-death experiences, some of Spain's festivals are downright lethal, as in the case of the "Running of the Bulls" at Pamplona and several other locations (watch video clip).
Granada's festivals are no less interesting and include many parades and processions that are ostensibly Catholic, but which clearly hark back to the bachanalian festivals of Roman times (Granada was built and colonized by the Romans), and to other pre-Christian traditions.
Below is a list of the most noteworthy festival occasions in the Granada region.
Fiesta de Los Reyes
Also called the Festival of the Three Kings, this is the day when the three Biblical kings of the Orient - the "three wise men" - deliver Christmas gifts to children. On the evening of Epiphany Eve, the 5th of January, three men dressed up as the kings ride through the town in a procession, scattering sweets to the crowds of excited children. That night, children set out their shoes filled with straw for the Three Kings' camels. The Kings, passing in the night "on their way to Bethlehem", fill the shoes with gifts. The next day, families enjoy a feast of almond soup, turkey, and roasted chestnuts. Sweets include a special nougat candy called turron and Kings' cake. A small prize baked in the cake brings luck to the person who finds it.
Carnival is celebrated before the forty days of Lent. Most towns and villages in the Granada region stage some kind of parade, followed by a dance and a contest to select the local "Carnival Queen". There are firework displays, market stalls, street parties and othe outdoor events. Many people wear fancy dress. In larger towns and cities, the celebrations go on for a whole week. In Granada city itself, the feria (funfair) is huge, and stays open all night.
Day of the Cross
On 3 May, "el Día de la Cruz", neighborhood squares are filled with decorated crosses, and many people place decorated crosses in their front windows. Some people convert rooms in their homes to elaborate shrines and open their doors to the public. Children display shrines they've created on street corners in the hope that passers-by will throw them a few coins in appreciation, in much the same way that childen in Britain collect "pennies for the Guy" on November 5th. There is music and dancing in the streets, firework displays and various other festivities. Click on image to enlarge.
Semana Santa or "Holy Week"
The Easter week processions bring thousands of people onto the streets of Granada, both as spectators and as participants. The processions leave each of the town's churches and meander slowly through the streets at a snail's pace to the accompaniment of brass band music, with their huge statues of Christ on the Cross and his mother the Virgin Mary in mourning (watch video clip). The processions are organised by the religious brotherhoods, whose members work all year long preparing the elaborate costumes and decorations, and there is considerable rivalry between these groups as to who can create the most spectacular displays. The processions take place during the week leading up to Easter Sunday
The International Festival of Music and Dance
The streets of Granada are filled with the music of Spanish guitars, the clicking of castanets, and the whirling bright dresses of flamenco dancers from the end of June to the beginning of July each year. More than 60 music and dance shows are held at venues throughout the city. There are also free performances in civic centres, cafes, bars, clubs and on the streets. These range from classical ensembles to jazz and world music. However, the larger events are held inside the Alhambra. The festival website releases full details of the programme as soon as they are available.
Hocus Pocus Festival
Otherwise known as the Festival of Magic. Granada is often called the "magical city", so it is an appropriate location for an event of this kind. For a week in November magicians and masters of illusion gather here each year to display their skills and celebrate their craft. In addition to scheduled magic shows in theatres and clubs, there are impromptu performances throughout the city in bars, cafes and on street corners. You can pull a rabbit out of your hat in your own magic show, enjoy the live performances, or attend a workshop or lecture.
Tickets can be booked online from the Hocus Pocus Festival website.
Granada International Jazz Festival
The Granada International Jazz Festival is one of the longest-running and most important in Europe. Over the twenty-five years since the festival began, it has featured such national and international jazz figures as Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Haden, Art Blakey, Tete Montoliu, Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. The inclusion of such prestigious names has helped create a vibrant jazz movement in Granada that promotes contact and exchange of experiences between local and foreign musicians. The festival takes place every November. Visit Granada Jazz Festival website for further information and to make bookings.
International Granada Tango Festival
Tango is hugely popular in Granada, and every year the city hosts a Tango Festival with performances at venues around the city. The Tango World's top artists have performed in its shows: Juan Carlos Copes, Horacio Ferrer, Susana Rinaldi, Miguel Zotto y Milena Plebs, Roberto Goyeneche, Amelita Baltar, Los Dinzel, Osvaldo Pugliese to name just a few. Each year the festival programme focuses on a particular personality or theme. Taking place in the month of March and stretching over five nights, the Festival offers spectacular shows, live music, dance classes, photographic exhibitions, poetry readings, cultural debates and much more. The Festival also organises return flights from selected UK airports to Granada Airport. Full details of the programme are available on the International Tango Festival website.
Granada International Festival of Young Filmmakers
This is where to watch out for tomorrow's Almodóvars (Talk With Her) and Amenábars (The Others). Cinemas throughout the city screen some of the best films and shorts by young directors, and they are voted on by audiences, while other cultural events run in conjunction with the main programme. The event takes place in April (exact date varies from year to year). Visit the Festival website for more information and programme of events, or telephone +34 958224963. Email: email@example.com.
The Rocket Festival
A three-day festival of contemporary and traditional music, performance, and sculpture set in a beautiful setting just outside the city of Granada. The festival, which takes place every mid May, brings together a diverse range of entertainment, with performers from Malaga and Granada sharing the stage with artists from the UK, Germany, Ireland, France and elsewhere in Europe. Musical styles include traditional and modern Andalucian music through blues, jazz, rock, reggae to the best live dance music and DJs. For more information, visit the Rocket Festival website.
The Festival of Flamenco
The Festival de Otoño de Granada is dedicated exclusively to flamenco music and dance and takes place in the first week of December every year. The best-known and most talented flamenco artists from all over Spain come together to perform in the most atmospheric of Granada's theatres, the Teatro Isabela Católica. Performances are also held at various other locations around the city, mainly in the Sacromonte district.
The Guardian Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts
The international arm of the Guardian's Hay Festival takes place in the magnificent surroundings of the Alhambra in Granada at the beginning of April.
Many people will be familiar with the renowned literary festival in the charming Welsh village of Hay-On-Wye, but the international popularity of the festival means that it is now held at different locations around the world. Throughout the day, discussions and performances take place across the host city, while parties continue well into the night.
The Hay Festival was held in Granada for the first time in April, 2008, and was a great success. The organisers subsequently announced that the Granada chapter of the festival will be an annual event. Visit the Hay Festival website.
Jazz en la Costa
A week-long event which takes place every mid-July in the spectacular settings of the tropical botanical park of El Majuelo, Almuñécar. Many of the world's most famous jazz musicians have taken part, including Mike Mainieri, Johnny Griffin and Benny Golson. The stage is set below a flood-lit Moorish castle, and the bar and seating areas are surrounded by palm trees. The festival - which has become one of the hottest tickets in Spain in the last few years - is well known for the eclectic nature of its roster: traditional standards and experimental jazz are complemented by rock, blues, funk and folk songs - the sounds of London, Rio, and Havana join those of New Orleans. Click here for further information.
A large one-day music and dance festival which takes place every August in Andalucia (watch video clip), featuring international bands and DJs (the 2008 line-up is headed by the Chemical Brothers, Thievery Corporation and Carl Craig). Creamfields began in the UK, but the festival is now held in a number of countries including Ireland, Argentina and Turkey. The liberal, open-air party atmosphere of the Spanish version is a refreshing change from the clampdown in England where over-zealous security and a mountain of procedural issues have forced the event out of the price range of its crowd. The 2008 festival will be held on Sat, 9 Aug at the Playa de Villaricos, El Ejido, Almería. Click here to visit Creamfields website.
Noche de San Juan
San Juan is celebrated in Spain on the night of 23 June, with bonfires on the beach, fireworks, drums, dancing, eating, drinking, and, at the stroke of midnight, bathing in the sea. According to the legend, at midnight the waters are blessed and hold special magical powers to cure illnesses, enhance beauty, grant wealth, and promote fertility. After midnight, it's a huge all-night party until the sun comes up! According to some scholars, the festival symbolizes the baptisms of John the Baptist; but, like most supposedly Christian traditions in Spain, it has many elements which predate Christianity. Click here to see photos and watch a video.