Today we’ll learn about Carnival in Spain. This holiday is deeply established in the Christian-Catholic world but is celebrated in such diverse places as Germany and Netherlands –whose populations are not mainly Catholic.
Carnivals are actually describable as a cultural manifestation that merged with Christianity. Regardless of its carefree spirit, the word “Carnival” would come from the Late Latin carne levare, which we’ll translate as “remove meat”. Certainly, fasting has to do with this, as Carnivals are followed by Lent, the 40-day-long period in which we observe the fasting of Jesus Christ in the desert, bouncing off temptation from Satan before he began his ministry. The Carnival reminds us of good and evil, light and darkness, winter and spring, constantly and eternally facing each other off.
SPANISH CARNIVAL COSTUMES
There is no unique costume when it comes to Carnival in Spain, but it may vary from region to region. Cadiz celebration-goers dress in colorful troubadour outfits, while in some other places, we find dancers who kind of resemble Brazilian garotas. What is definitely a tradition is the use of a costume that may as well take on more contemporary motives. In this, Carnivals keep their essence, since in their origins it was a “subversion of the establishment” event –therefore, hierarchies were momentarily “suspended” before they were “resumed” with the beginning of the new astronomical year, coming in along spring.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the most important celebrations around Spain.
GRAN CANARIA CARNIVAL
The island hosts approximately 200,000 people. Mainly, they dwell around on the beaches of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Carnival. This event blends the light-hearted mood of Cadiz with glamour and color.
The origins of this Carnival go back to the 15th century. After an interruption enforced by Franco’s regime, it was reinstated in 1976. In 1998, its first and most successful drag queen show took place. Now, this is a staple. The Cabalgata, which is the highlight parade of Gran Canaria Carnivals, goes a six-kilometer-long distance. Later, at Parque de Santa Catalina, the competition for the best Drag Queen is held.
The Carnival ends with the burning of a symbolic papier mâché sardine along with the grandeur of fireworks.
SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE CARNIVAL
In Santa Cruz the Carnival goes on for three weeks of partying, being as wild and huge as the festival that takes place in Sitges. Here, we can in all confidence set a comparison to the Rio Carnival as to style. You will find samba, feather headdresses, sparkly costumes, Carnival Queen, and Carnival Drag Queen!
As in its Gran Canaria counterpart, there will be a Gran Parada or Cabalgata surrounded by salsa and Latin music on the streets. You must be guessing it right if you think you will need to book in advance to secure a place.
Cádiz Carnival makes for a good example of a Carnival loaded with humor and inventiveness. In Spain, it is actually big and also one of the most entertaining. As we have already pointed out, troubadours in colorful costumes take the streets as they play music and sing. Music is likewise big in this Carnival, with songs taking on politicians and other personalities, plus all kinds of events taking place here and there.
The streets become outstandingly decorated, with competitions and fireworks almost every day. The parade is otherworldly, as lots of striking floats come to represent several sectors of the city. You need to take nothing too seriously during this Carnival.
Sitges is a great location not too far from Barcelona, with a regular train service, and its Carnival stands out in the sense that it is loud, flamboyant, and quite similar to the Rio Carnival. In fact, the LGBT community has a great presence here with the drag queen shows and their influence on Carnival’s street parties.
The most important parades in Sitges are the Parade of Extermination and the Parade of Debauchery. Over 2,000 participants and over 50 floats show up for festivities.
As in many other Carnivals, Sitges has its own rendition of the Burying of the Sardine.
Barcelona’s Carnival is not as spectacular or renowned as the likes of Sitges, Tenerife, or Cádiz, but it’s still a well-considered part of the festivity schedules for the capital of Catalonia. If you intend to go there, it sounds like a good idea to go during Carnival. Think about it based on your expectations, as there are a lot of parades going on in the city due to the dimensions of the city. There is a celebration per district.
We recommend that you head for the El Born district, with a drag queen horse-and-carriage parade and concerts. In this district, you can also attend the Battle of the Oranges (La Taronjada), where balloons and confetti are used in lieu of real oranges.
So, these are some suggestions in case you are pondering whether to visit a Carnival in Spain. The only thing left for us is to wish you a happy time there –we are positive you’ll have lots of fun.