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What’s on in Spain: May 2015

May is the month of festivals, festivals and more festivals - from music shows, to horse shows to, of course, an international puppet show.

What’s on in Spain: May 2015
A view of the Feria de Jerez in Jerez de la Frontera. Photo: El Pantera / Wikimedia Commons.

Festivals

Patios de Córdoba (Córdoba courtyards festival), Córdoba, May 4th-17th

Photo: Roberto / Wikimedia Commons.

The citizens of Cordoba will be competing for the prize of who has the most lush courtyard, decorating their patios with bright flowers, leafy green plants, fountains and more. The tradition dates back to 1921 with the town hall organising a competition, along with music, dancing and wine.

WOMAD Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance), Cáceres, May 7th-10th

Cáceres in Extremadura offers one of the world’s more unique music festivals as it is set within the historical walled city. And the three-day festival is completely free. 

Feria de Jerez (also known as the “Horse Fair”), Jerez de la Frontera, May 10th-17th

Originally a livestock fair, the wonderful feria of Jerez is much more open than its more famous cousin – that held in Sevilla – as the casitas are public so anyone can walk in and enjoy the food, drink and the dancing. Expect endless glasses of fino and dancing until dawn.

Titirimundi International Puppet Theatre Festival, Segovia, May 13th-17th

For five days in May, the medieval city of Segovia is transformed in this annual event for puppet enthusiasts. International puppet theatre groups stage performances across the city from traditional puppetry, to street theatre to acrobatics. Fun for all the family.

Fiestas de San Isidro, Madrid, May 15th

San Isidro is the patron saint of Madrid and May 15th is a public holiday for Isidro in the capital, though the celebrations usually kick off the week before and last until the Sunday after. Locals dress up in the typical chulapo and goyesco costumes, and dance to the traditional chotis in squares across old Madrid. It’s also the start of the prestigious bullfighting season at Las Ventas

Primavera Sound music festival, Barcelona, May 28th-30th.

Primavera Sound has a growing reputation for offering one of the most innovative and forward-thinking line-ups in Europe – a festival for true music aficionados. On the list this time for 2015 are Belle & Sebastian, The Strokes, Antony and the Johnsons, and Spritualized, to name a few.

Culture

Romería de El Rocío (El Rocio Pilgrimage), Almonte, May 24th-25th

A group with their 'simpecado', or copy of the Virgin. Photo: Avicentegil / Wikimedia Commons.

The most famous of Spain’s Romerias, El Rocio attracts some one million people on a pilgrimage to the saint, with some travelling on horseback, other by carriage or on foot dressed in traditional flamenco-style outfits. Expect live music, dancing, food and drink until well into the early hours.

Galician Literature Day, May 17th

Each year since 1963, Galicia takes the day of May 17th off to celebrate the region's literary greats, dedicating the day to a new person each time, though it must be someone who has been dead for at least ten years. This year honours Xosé Filgueira Valverde, who was nicknamed “the old professor”. Poetry readings, concerts and theatre events are planned for the day.

Sport

Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid, May 1st-10th

Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal at the 2010 Mutua Madrid Open. Photo: PictFactory / Wikimedia Commons.

A chance for tennis fans to see Rafa Nadal play on his home turf (clay) in this Masters competition that comes just ahead of the Grand Slams of Roland Garros in Paris and then Wimbledon. Held in the Caja Magica, the tournament attracts all the big names from the tennis circuit.

Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, May 8th-10th

The Formula 1 race held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is one of the oldest in the world and celebrated its centenary in 2013. A must for petrol heads.

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FESTIVAL

The crazy ways to celebrate carnival in Spain

As carnival gets underway across Spain next week, The Local gives you the run down on where to see some of Spain's wackiest celebrations.

The crazy ways to celebrate carnival in Spain
Revellers dressed as clowns for carnival in Cadiz. Photo: AFP
Running from February 19th until Ash Wednesday on February 26th carnival week is a big deal in Spain. It is celebrated in dozens of different ways across Spain. Here are some of the biggest and more unusual parties.  
 
Mud madness 
 

Photo: AFP
 
If you’re spending Carnival in Galicia, chances are you’ll get more than just a spot of rain. So why not take it a step further and get involved in a full-on mud battle? Entroido Carnival, in the town of Laza, sees locals engaged in a friendly war where rags drenched in mud are thrown at random at everyone taking part.
 
Grotesque grins 
 

Photo: AFP
 
Entroido Carnival in Laza also offers an alternative to those who don’t want to wash mud out of their hair for a week. Os Peliqueiros, seen in the image wearing odd traditional clothing and creepy masks, are ancestral figures thought to represent Galician taxmen in the 16th century. Up to 150 run through the streets of this small town in northern Spain, whipping anyone who gets in their way.
 
Santa Cruz carnival, Tenerife 

Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP

Billed as the best place to celebrate carnival outside of Rio de Janiero, the Santa Cruz carnival in Tenerife runs from Wednesday 19t February to Sunday 1st March. It  draws crowds of 400,000 and involves street parties, parades, satirical street bands and of course, the crowning of a carnival queen. Full details of events found HERE:

 
Drag queen election
 

Photo: AFP
 
You can't get much glitzier than the annual carnival celebration in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria. The surreal nature and extravagant costumes seen at each year’s pageant are a feast for the senses, making the event just as popular as the standard Carnival Queen election in neighbouring Tenerife. Anyone can take part in the drag gala, but only a handful of women have taken to the stage since the celebration began in 1998.
 
Where the wild things are 
 

Photo: AFP
 
If you fancy reliving some childhood nightmares head to the village of Piasca in Cantabria, northern Spain. There you will find half of the locals covered in animal skins and wearing unnerving animalistic masks, who will no doubt chase you away with their brooms. Another tradition of the so-called Zamarrones Carnival involves going from door to door begging for sausages, eggs and bacon while heading to the neighbouring village of Los Cos.

Carnival of Carrizo de la Ribera, Leon

Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Another carnival with cowbells, this time, locals dress up as characters called 'antruejos' (shown in picture, above), terrifying looking figures that you definitely wouldn't want to meet on a dark night. 

 
Powder party

 

Photo: AFP
 
Los Indianos festival sees thousands of people dressed in white take to the streets of La Palma (Canaries) and chuck talcum powder at each other for hours on end. The fiesta’s name refers to the Canarian migrants who sought a better life in Latin America in the 19th century and were greeted warmly on their return to the island of La Palma. As for the talcum tossing, it's thought to be linked to the disinfectant powder sprinkled on the travellers to avoid the spread of disease.
 
Load of bull?
 

Photo: AFP
 
It may come as no surprise that one Spanish town has linked two of the country’s greatest traditions together: bull running and Carnival. After all, if being chased by a 700-kilo beast seemed foolish enough already, doing it in fancy dress seems to make sense somehow. Head to Ciudad Rodrigo near Salamanca (west Spain) for El Carnaval del Toro.
 
Burial of the sardine
 

Photo: AFP
 
Celebrations turn a bit too surreal in many parts of Spain when on Ash Wednesday the streets are jam-packed with fake weeping widows, men and women, who follow a giant polystyrene sardine to its burial. The message behind the funeral parody is more symbolic than it may initially seem: the sardine represents life’s excesses and its burning at the stake, the purge of such vices and the rebirth of our souls. 
 

Basque bigfoots
 

Photo: AFP
 
Old habits die hard, especially ancient ones in the Basque Country and Navarre. Carnival traditions in the villages of Ituren and Zubieta (Navarre) see locals dress up as wild beasts from head to toe as they march through the streets escorted by Joalduns, “those who carry the bells” to scare away the evil spirits. Similar medieval traditions revolving around farming and animal herding are also found in Slovenia and Bulgaria.
 
Meet the giants
 
Photo: http://solsonaturisme.com

In Solsona, Catalonia, carnival festivities have a long history. Under Franco, the celebrations were forbidden; however, the city was the first to begin celebrating again after his death. This carnival gives you the opportunity to experience some Catalan culture traditions, chief among them the parade of the gegants or the symbolic hanging of the (Catalan) donkey.

Arrival of the birds

Photo: carnaval.villarrobledo.com

The carnival in Villarrobledo is another one with a long history which goes back to the 19th century. Traditionally, the festivities begin on Thursday with the Llegada de los Juanes, a parade of people wearing bird masks. They are the opening act for ten days full of costumes, fun and fiestas. There is also a children's carnival with its own costume competition.

Carnaval del Vino de Haro


Photo: lariojaturismo.com

In La Rioja, fans of classy celebrations might find exactly what they are looking for. This year's celebrations follow a Murder on the Orient Express theme, with wine playing a major role. Local bodegas present their latest creations. Salute!

Gay carnival in Sitges

More than 250,000 people flock to the coastal town of Sitges about 35 kilometres from Barcelona for one of the biggest gay carnivals in the world. Starting on Tuesday 18th to Wednesday February 26th, the week is packed with parades, parties and shows and the gay-friendly town opens its doors to thousands of revellers. By the way, this one is also said to be one of the safest street festivals of the world. Best party night is on Saturday!

Drink and dress up


A carnival choir entertains the crowds in Cadiz. Photo: AFP

The carnival in Cádiz is one of the most famous in Spain, dating back to the 16th century. These days it's all about dressing up and poking fun at politicians and people in the news, as well as the usual eating and drinking of course.