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Spanish Holiday Dates

Días festivos en España


There are quite a number of holidays in Spain, spread conveniently throughout the year, most of which have religious significance or origins.

Since the 1550's, January 1st has been celebrated as the first day of the year in Spain. Despite the modern belief that the day off is required to recover from the festivities the night before, the day marks the feast of Saint Basil, a prominent religious figure born in the year 330 in what is modern day Turkey who met death's door on January 1st, 379.

La Noche de Reyes or night of the kings, or the Twelfth Night after Christmas as the English used to call it, is not an actual holiday, but there will be a number of places closed that afternoon and evening as families rush home to watch the parades with the 3 Reyes Magos -- the 3 wise men in English culture -- march through town with gifts for one and all. The actual bank holiday is January 6th. It is the traditional Christmas day celebration day in Spain.

If you've ever been to Valencia in Spain, then you'll know the significance of San José. It is the day that the Fallas (learn that word, it's important in the Spanish vocabulary) of the famous festival are burnt and also happens to be Father's day in Spain. A short time later (either in March or April), we have Easter week, where Spain enjoys 2 bank holidays together and so a long weekend.

Labour day on May 1st provides the work force with a day away from work, then in June, San Juan is a particularly prominent celebration along the Spanish coast. Groups will set up camp with bonfires, BBQ's and drinking throughout the night. The idea is that you go into the sea to cleanse yourself and then the serious partying begins! For many Spanish people, this night marks the beginning of summer and they won't go to the beach for the day until after this date, however warm the Spanish sunshine may be.

Moving along to October, the day that Columbus discovered the Americas provides another Spanish holiday. Actually it's the Spanish holiday -- the Day of Hispanity, marking the day when the countries that are now bonded by having learned Spanish in the Spanish world met for the first time. It is often called the Puente del Pilar, literally Pilar bridge - bridge being the word that the Spanish use to say long weekend. In the capital city, Madrid, there is an impressive military parade that day which is presided over by the Spanish king himself.

The Día de Todos los Santos or the Día de los Muertos comes soon afterwards. Traditionally All Saints Day or the Day of the Dead is a day to honour the dead and assist in their passage in the afterlife. Many Spanish people will return to their home towns to visit the cemeteries and place flowers where their families are laid to rest. It is also common to see the play Don Juan Tenorio, which playing at least once a year is the longest running play in Spain. It is a particularly good time to engage in a Spanish immersion course and see all that goes on during these days.

Despite being the end of the year, the month of December is pretty busy in the Spanish calendar, and not just with Christmas shopping dates. The 6th and 8th often result in another puente weekend, the 6th celebrating the 1978 Spanish constitution and the 8th being the Immaculate Conception, when many people will head to church. Christmas Eve is actually more important than Christmas day, which is relatively new to Spain, as traditionalists prefer their 3 Kings to Papa Noel or Santa Claus. The evening of the 24th is all about family with a get together for a big dinner. Many businesses close half or all day on December 24th, even though it is not an actual Spanish holiday.

Finishing off the year of Spanish holidays is New Year's Eve where people tend to have dinner with their families and knock back 12 grapes as midnight strikes, allowing for good luck in the forthcoming 12 months. Those who are not with their families will often head to the town square where the town's main clock will strike and some towns even put on live music in their main plaza for an all night outdoor party.

English WordSpanish WordPronunciation
Jan 1st, new yearaño nuevoanyoh nwebo
Jan 5thNoche de Reyesno-chay da ray-es
Jan 6th, EpiphanyDía de Reyesdee-ah da ray-es
Mar 19th, St. Joseph's daySan Josésan hou-say
Easter weekSemana Santase-mahn-a san-ta
Holy ThursdayJueves Santohoo-ef-es san-toh
Good FridayViernes Santovi-ar-ness san-toh
Easter MondayLunes de Pascualoon-ess da Pask-ooa
May 1st, Labour dayDía del TrabajadorDee-ah dal Trab-ah-ha-doh
June 24thSan JuanSan Hoo-uan
Aug 15th, Assumption AsunciónAss-oon-thee-on
Oct 12thDía de EspañaDee-yah da Esp-a-nya
Nov 1st, All Saints day Día de Todos los SantosDee-yah de Toad-oss los San-tows
Dec 6th, Constitution day Día de la ConstituciónDee-yah de la Cons-tee-too-thee-on
Dec 8th, Immaculate ConceptionInmaculada ConcepciónInmacula-dah Con-thep-thee-on
Christmas Evela NochebuenaNo-che-boo-wen-nah
Dec 25th Christmas dayNavidadNa-vee-dad
Dec 31st, New Year's Evela NocheviejaNo-che-vee-eh-hah

Not all the above dates are national holidays, but they are the most important Spanish holidays in the calendar. So if you time your trip to Spain at this time, you can experience the celebrations for yourself.

The importance of holidays in Spain is such that it even permeates the academic world. There are certain Spanish courses in Spain that encourage you to take part of the holidays. And if you are given the chance to learn Spanish in Barcelona while experiencing the energy of the spring fair or the multicultural Easter celebrations for yourself, who could resist?