The Tradition of Neighborhood Festivals

An integral part of Spain’s culture is the widespread prevalence of the neighborhood fiesta mayor (big neighborhood party). An important celebration in the Hispanic world, each neighborhood hosts a party which is generally dedicated to its patron saint. The logic is that in the past, each neighborhood was essentially its own little town. With time, the size of these neighborhoods grew and they merged into what today are large towns and cities.

The festivals gave neighbors a chance to hang out and get to know each other. Apart from food and drink, they include performances of all kinds, allowing grownups and children alike, to show off their abilities to the entire neighborhood. They also involve a wide variety of workshops and opportunities for artisans to make and sell their goods, providing an impetus to local commerce.  Overall, an all around fun time for the entire family.

Last month, the city where we live celebrated their fiesta mayor. Apart from each neighborhood that hosts its own fiesta mayor, the city itself hosts an even larger fiesta dedicated to its patron. Along the same vein as the neighborhood festivals, numerous streets were closed off to traffic and became pedestrian only. Artisans put up kiosks & shops on these streets to sell their wares ranging from locally made clothes and purses to cheese, milk and honey. There were also large tents hosting events (like square dancing) where hundreds of people from the general public joined in and followed along as the instructor danced on stage.

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Even one of the largest and most important thoroughfares was entirely blocked off to traffic and taken over by the celebrations. There were food stands, game kiosks as well as amusement park attractions, creating a very carnival like atmosphere.  The Honey Bee and I decided we weren’t up for any of the rides, but we did play a number of games like throwing darts at balloons and ring toss. I’m happy to report that we went home winners, with a lot of prizes. For about 2 years, the Honey Bee has had her eye on a big plushy yellow duck that I was finally able to win for her at darts. She couldn’t have been more excited. As the name suggests, the ring toss involved tossing rings. But what was different were the prizes. You were playing for bottles of various types of alcohol. We won 4 bottles, including a 1993 Gran Reserva from the renowned Penedes wine growing region, valued at around US$ 20.

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We wrapped up the night with some great strawberry and vanilla ice cream in a cone and some crispy fries doused with loads of ketchup, mayo and mustard. All in all, we had a great time and look forward to visiting more city and neighborhood festivals in the future.

 

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