9 unique and festive holidays celebrated in Spain

9 unique and festive holidays celebrated in Spain

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated September 28, 2023

There are vibrant and exciting holidays celebrated in Spain. Depending on the specific day and its traditions, spectators and participants may enjoy fireworks, parades, local culinary specialties and other celebrations of Spanish culture. Some of these celebrations have deep roots, dating back centuries.

If you’re planning a trip or extended stay, consider going out of your way to experience one of these fabulous holidays celebrated in Spain. They are opportunities to learn about local traditions and see something unique, all while having fun. Of course, for those of us who like posting on social media, these holidays also offer amazing visuals that can’t be seen anywhere else.

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What holidays are celebrated in Spain?

Spain observes major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Day, Constitution Day and International Workers Day. These are nationwide days off, on which banks and many public services are closed. 

Different parts of Spain also observe their own regional holidays. While many of these holidays are colorful and unique, they may not be acknowledged or celebrated elsewhere in Spain.

Before we get into descriptions of the most unique holidays in Spain, here’s how they break down by season:

  • Winter: Día de Reyes, Carnaval
  • Spring: Semana Santa, Las Fallas de Valencia, La Feria de Sevilla
  • Summer: Las Hogueras de San Juan, La Tomatina, El Festival de los Patios Cordobeses, Las Fiestas de San Fermín

By far, the most popular months to visit Spain are the summer months from May to August. If you’re looking for holidays celebrated in Spain that are off the beaten path, consider the festivals in winter and spring.

1. Semana Santa 

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is celebrated in March or April all across Spain. It’s a Catholic religious celebration right before Easter, commemorating the death of Jesus Christ. 

Each city and town in Spain has its own unique way to celebrate. Some of the most famous celebrations take place in Seville and Malaga, where Catholic “brotherhoods” carry massive and elaborately decorated floats through the streets.

2. Carnaval

One of the must-see holidays in Spain is Carnaval. Although many people associate this holiday with Rio de Janeiro, el Carnaval de Tenerife is the second-largest Carnival celebration in the world.

Carnaval is the last hurrah before the Catholic Lent, so it occurs between February and March each year. Tenerife in the Canary Islands hosts a massive party in the streets with parades, fabulous costumes, dancing and masks. The festivities culminate with the selection of the Carnival Queen of Tenerife.

3. Las Fallas de Valencia

Of all the regional holidays celebrated in Spain, Las Fallas de Valencia (Sculptures of Valencia) might be the most unique. 

If you’re a fan of fireworks and bonfires, this festival is for you. Every March in Valencia, locals construct elaborate papier-mâché sculptures called fallas, each depicting a different scene. On the final night of the festival, the sculptures are burned in one spectacular citywide bonfire.

4. La Feria de Sevilla

In April, Seville (Sevilla in Spanish) celebrates its annual fair. Here, the neighborhood of Los Remedios has booths, events, music, food and horse-drawn carriages to celebrate the coming of spring. La Feria de Abril de Sevilla is a seven-day party where people come from all over to flaunt their best traditional flamenco dresses.

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5. El Festival de los Patios Cordobeses

For twelve days in May, Córdoba is bursting with plants and flowers. The traditional housing structure of Córdoba features an interior patio shared by neighbors. For the festival, the windows, facades and patios are decorated with beautifully arranged plants. There’s music, dancing, food, drinks and awards given for the best plant arrangements.

6. Las Hogueras de San Juan

In June, the southern beach city of Alicante celebrates Las Hogueras de San Juan (Bonfires of Saint John). Giant papier-mâché sculptures like the fallas in Valencia are constructed, displayed and set ablaze on the last night of the festival. There are also beautiful flower displays and pyrotechnic shows during the celebration.

7. Día de Reyes

January 6 is Día de Reyes (Kings Day), which commemorates the three kings who brought gifts to the Christ Child. The evening before the holiday is a time for performances and parties, while the holiday itself is a time for families to give gifts and eat cake. Each city in Spain tends to celebrate in its own way.

8. La Tomatina

La Tomatina is held on the last Wednesday of August in the Valencian city of Buñol. As the name implies, this festival is all about tomatoes. The streets of Buñol are covered in red from a massive food fight with tomatoes that lasts about an hour. It’s one of the wackiest holidays celebrated in Spain.

9. Las Fiestas de San Fermín

Las Fiestas de San Fermín is a multi-day holiday that occurs in July in the northern city of Pamplona. Thanks to Ernest Hemingway, who wrote about it in 1926, it’s possibly the most famous of local holidays celebrated in Spain. While there are many festivities to witness or partake in, the most famous is the “running of the bulls,” in which participants flee from bulls running through the streets of the city.

Fun and fabulous holidays celebrated in Spain

Local holidays in Spain have something for everyone, whether you’re looking for bonfires, a food fight, flamenco or flowers. They’re the perfect chance to soak up some culture, make some new friends and take some one-of-a-kind photos.

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez
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