‘We came for peace and quiet but discovered fiestas are an essential part of Spanish village life’

'We came for peace and quiet but discovered fiestas are an essential part of Spanish village life'
At every fiesta you'll find beefy blokes in skimpy dresses. Photo: H Savage.
Heath Savage, who swapped the Sydney suburbs for rural life in Galicia, finds out just how important fiestas are in village life.

Sydney has a reputation for being Australia’s premier party town.  Our stuffy arch rivals in Melbourne reckon we are a rowdy lot! So, we old Aussie chicas do know how to shake our stuff. That said, we came here for the quiet life: the birdsong, the breeze in the trees, the tinkling streams, all that lark. We were seriously unprepared for the vigour and enthusiasm with which this small community lets its collective hair down!

Christmas ends but the festivites continue and the year kicks off big-style with Reyes in January, celebrating the Magi. And why wouldn’t you? Gold, frankincense, myrrh, sweets and gifts?

March brings Entroido, when everyone gets up in fancy dress and parades around having a wild time.

April is the Medieval Festival in Monforte. Same format: fancy dress, booze, food, mayhem.

In May, we get Mostra de viños. This involves huge quantities of wine. ‘Nuff said.

In July we celebrate Santiago the apostle. This is a little more sedate, but you get cake.

October has Festa de Samain: more food, spookiness and Queimada, if you’re game!

November, Magosto. More wine; this time accompanied by your own body-weight in bacon and chestnuts. What’s not to like? Of course, in between these high days, there are numerous Saints’ Days. You need the rest.

READ ALSO: Going nuts! How a small town in northern Spain celebrates its walnut harvest

The traditional Galician brew of queimada, a hot punch made from orujo mixed with herbs, sugar, lemon peel, apple and coffee beans,  brewed in a special clay pot. Photo: Juan Salmoral / Flickr

Families who live year-round in nearby cities such as Lugo, Ourense, Pontevedra and Vigo come home to party. Every café is full. Our village of under 800 people can produce extraordinary events. 

This is testimony to the way that the Spanish prioritise public life: being with friends and family and having a good time is all-important. Whether they are celebrating local produce or a religious/cultural tradition, they throw everything into it.

We realized how sterile and homogenized our Australian “fiestas” have become, in contrast to these rough and ready Spanish events.

People wander around with drinks in their hands – yes, actual beers, and glasses of wine! And no-one dies! Children run about unleashed, receiving pats and sweets from strangers.

There’s usually the obligatory older gentleman, dressed as a rooster, or something “saucy”, taking his annual opportunity to get fresh with the ladies. And one truly international custom is always evident; a gang of beefy blokes in mini-dresses, charged with making sure that at least one café runs out of beer.

Adults are not corralled into roped-off areas to smoke or drink. Men stand gallantly aside to allow women use their toilets. Little kids sit on bar-stools next to elderly people, not locked away in a “children’s section” with a minder. At least one toddler shares his ice-cream with one of the local dogs, who also get to join in.

The robustness and togetherness of life in a Spanish village is still very new to us. Seeing our bank manager wander down the main street, drinking a beer, dressed as a banana, did give us a bit of a start! Being greeted like long-lost friends, by villagers we meet every day, gives us a sense of belonging.

Next year, these “dos damas Australianas” (as we are known) will participate in the fun, and get ourselves geared up. A great way to advertise our business. We already have at least four volunteers to ride the float!


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