Candelaria. The popular Spanish tradition of La Candelaria, the Feast of Candles, is celebrated in a wide variety all around the country.
In towns around Spain, parades, feasts, and celebrations honor of “The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord”. This is the day, according to the bible, when Jesus was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem for his ceremonial redemption. Called "the feast of candles", La Candelaria is a reminder of the light of the Baby Jesus. Wherever it's celebrated, La Candelaria is a time of purification. In pagan folklore, the day marks the middle of Winter and the promise of spring. If you visit the Spanish countryside on this day, you will see a wide variety of ways celebrations and ceremonies.
Start your journey in Madrid, where the celebration of La Candelaria is particularly popular- though the celebration doesn’t have very much to do with baby Jesus! Clowns dressed as Andalusian farmers bring out vaquillas (young cows) made of wood with wheels and with a large set of horns on top. Mock bullfighters dressed in multicolored silk pants along with paper flowers and bows. As they parade through the streets they perform hilarious bullfights moving around town all day long. At the end of the day in the town plaza, the bull is "killed," and sangria is passed around, symbolizing the fallen blood of the bull.
Perhaps you're not a bullfighting fan, even when it's with wooden bulls, but maybe you like cold cuts? Well then head to A Pobra de Trives, in the Galician province of Ourense, where there is the "Festa dos Chourizos", or the Chorizo Sausage Festival. This festival draws people from miles around to taste locally made homemade sausages cooked by bonfires that also symbolize huge candles.
In other towns, parades and processions are the order of the day. In Malaga, for example, a young girl from the village leads the parade in honor of Our Lady of Candelaria, eventually reenacting the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Menasalbas, in Toledo, holds a horseback parade in which 11 riders and their 22 footmen carry torches throughout the town.
If parades, sausages and mock bullfights still don’t capture your attention, never fear, there's still plenty more to choose from. Dancing, feasting and horse races occur in many different areas of Spain and but in one particular town there is even a demon parade! In Almonacid del Marquesado, in the province of Cuenca, hundreds of "devils" dress in colorful outfits and jump and dance through the streets of the village.
On the island of Tenerife the Virgin of Candelaria, patron of the Canary Islands, thousands of people arriving on foot from every part of the island meet in the town of Candelaria, just south of the city of Santa Cruz. The Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria is located here and is the center of worship dedicated to this Virgin in the Canary Islands.
Whether you’re in the north, south, east or west, as long as you’re in Spain this is a day to celebrate the coming end of winter. This is a day to make dance, eat, drink and, if you like, make an offering at a local church. If you find yourself in the Canary Islands, don’t forget that this is a holiday where all the stores are closed.