Celebrating Spain

Emily Berry is a student at McKendree University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain

Las Fallas, Semana Santa, Carnival, and Feria de Abril are celebrations that were unknown to me until I came to Spain. These festivals are celebrated in specific cities annually. I had the opportunity to attend two of the celebrations: Las Fallas and Carnival. As soon as I heard about the ‘new’ holidays, I leaped to the computer to find out how I could become a part of them. Carnival in Cadiz, Spain and Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain are events that one must not miss if the opportunity presents itself.

What is Carnival?

Cadiz celebrates Carnival February 28 through March 10. I could only attend the beginning of the holiday, which made me want to do more research. The whole city is involved. The streets are streamed with purple, blue, red, green, yellow lights and stages are prepared for performers. Traditionally, carnival celebrates the coming of Lent and Ash Wednesday. Visitors to carnival would be seen as deviant if they were not dressed abnormally. To an unknowing US citizen, it would feel as though they were at a Halloween party (but less scary with loads of people). My friends and I dressed in all black with wigs in multitude of colors and styles. I enjoyed all of the celebrants’ creativity (Star Wars/Disney princess characters). The variety was endless. Wearing a costume was entertaining- every time we spotted someone dressed similarly we would talk for a bit commenting on our beautiful-‘natural’ hair. Costumes were a blast, but my favorite part was listening to the endless groups of singers. In almost every corner of Cadiz, we could find an organized show of singing men. All the groups (5-45 people) sang with all their might (so that people in the back- like me- could hear them excellently) about certain social topics that would match their attire. For instance, a group of men wore vests that signified equality. They sung about treating everyone equally in a comedic manner! I felt as though every minute I was experiencing something extraordinary. I had a similar unforgettable experience in Valencia.

What is Las Fallas?

Valencia usually celebrates Las Fallas around 15-19 of March. This celebration takes months to construct magnificent art. Las Fallas is in celebration of Saint Joseph and a grand welcome to the Spring season. Valencianos are in their traditional silk-sown costumes flowing down each street. Fireworks are heard city wide each day/night at 2 pm and 12 am. Bands and DJs are playing every few streets next to the main attractions- Fallas are paper-mache or wood-made cartoon/puppets-like sculptures. I witnessed Fallas about social topics, fairytales (mermaids/pirates/dragons- oh my!), and Hollywood movies (featuring Nemo, Peter Pan, ghost-buster, Harry Potter). The scaling could tower over any apple tree. The catch- only one is left standing- the rest are burned. I cannot imagine judging the art because all had enjoyable distinctions from each other. Las Fallas brought me new friends and more knowledge about the various Spanish communities. I look forward to the celebrations to come.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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