Scribbler in Seville

High days and holidays

Our local romeria, Torrijos, with brightly-coloured carriolas and merry-making aplenty.

It’s a local holiday where I live today – the dia de resaca (hangover day) for the romeria. This has no effect on my work, in terms of having a day off, since my home is my office and I’m my own boss, but it does mean that the kids are home and therefore that chances of getting any work done are slim.

Which got me thinking – partly because Wednesday is also a holiday (a national one, this time – Dia de Colon, which commemorates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, who is incidentally buried in Seville Cathedral), thereby vaporizing 40% of my work time this week – about the phenomenal amount of public holidays here is Spain.

But it’s not just the amount, it’s the variety and complicatedness (is that even a word?). Each town has its own holidays, whether they be recovery days after a big party, like today; ferias; or saint’s days. Then you have the cities‘ celebrations – Seville has Dia San Fernando, at the end of May, for the king who rescued the city from the Moors in 1248. These often involve elaborate ceremonies which hark back to the cities’ history, usually involving Moors and Catholic Kings.

The flag of the city of Sevilla.

Regional celebrations come next – in our case, Dia de Andalucia on 28 February, when you see the green-and-white flag fluttering all over southern Spain. This originated out of gratitude to Blas Infante, the man who secured the region’s autonomy.

The Andalucian flag.

The national holidays include this week’s Dia de Colon , also known as Dia de Hispanidad ; the same day is Dia del Pilar – the Virgen del Pilar is patron saint of the Guardia Civil and Dia de las Fuerzas Armadas (12 October is also celebrated in Latin-American countries around the world, where it’s sometimes called Dia de la Raza).

The other Spanish festivos are Jueves and Viernes Santo (Thursday and Friday of Holy Week); Dia de la Constitucion and Dia de la Concepcion Inmaculada, which are two days apart in December – the latter being one of the many Spanish holidays have a religious origin.

The Spanish flag.

Including local holidays, Seville has 14 days per year, as compares with the UK’s eight (Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday, plus two May bank holidays, and an August one): two local, one regional, and 11 national; half of these are religious; in 2011, there were only three months with no holidays (March, July and September).

Inevitably, if these holidays are just two days away from a weekend, the in-betweener day gets sacrificed (a so-called puente, or bridge).

Sometimes people just disappear for a week or so, for example when they go to
El Rocio
, the huge pilgrimage; or the Seville Feria – they just don’t bother turning up to work, but everyone knows where they are. Professional life comes second to social life, although the two come together at the Feria, where deals are done amidst the dancing and sherry-drinking. So while it’s not an official holiday, lunes de resaca (the Monday after the week-long Feria has finished) sees plenty of desks empty.

At the Feria, deals are made from afternoon to night time - just as well, since noone is in their offices that week.

And the Andalucians wonder why they have a reputation for being work-shy.

So the moral of this story is, if you’re coming on holiday to Andalucia, or even if you live here but are going to visit another part of the region, whether a town or city, it’s always worth checking in advance for random public holidays. The downside: you’ll be left with all the shops shut (luckily, however, the bars and restaurants always stay open to feed the fiesta-goers); the upside: you’ll get to see, and maybe even join in with, some colourful traditional celebrations which will be an experience you won’t forget.

Yay! I’m into double figures! This is post number 10 in my A Post A Day project for the month of October. Myself and Digamama, among many others, are committed masochists who are plumbing the depths of our inspiration and creativity to find something vaguely interesting/topical/relevant to write about every day. Yes, you read that correctly, every single day during this month. Yes, I know we’re mad. But we both like a challenge. Especially when it involves writing.

7 thoughts on “High days and holidays

  1. azahar

    I didn’t know that October 12th was a national holiday – I’ve always known it as the día de Pilar, which I think is a local Sevilla holiday. Confusing.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      The Virgen del Pilar is patron saint of the Guardia Civil, so it’s their day too. And just to confuse you a bit more, it’s also known as Dia de las Fuerzas Armadas – you may have seen the ads on TV.

  2. JuanMa

    I love this article. But, I must say, I only feel pity for the British who only get eight days a year. There is a national regulation stating the number of days for holidays -14 for everywhere in Spain. I heard not so long ago that the EU was preparing a harmonisation of these aspects (including bank holidays and work holidays – 22 working days per year) but I believe it is a very difficult task. I prefer saying that rather than work-shy, we are the best nation in the world at combining work and leisure. It may seem chauvenist, but it is what I believe. Regards, JuanMa

  3. Bibsey Mama

    I always get caught short on the holidays here in Spain. I never seem to know when one is about to pounce. I recently had to go and buy milk in a bar for Bibsey as there was nowhere else open. Our local Feria was a couple of weeks ago and they had a sound system on until 8.30 in the morning for three nights in a row. We could hear it all the way up the mountain. I have to hand it to the Spanish – they know how to party.

  4. Pingback: In praise of the suegra « Scribbler in Seville

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