Pilgrims who are walking their camino in Galicia in summer time will be surprised at how many festivals are being held here. Joining these festivals is a great way of knowing local culture and living the Camino more deeply. The region of Galicia loves its festivals, the perfect blend of pagan and religious traditions. It is difficult to find a single weekend during the summer months without a celebration in at least one of the villages, towns or cities, and several have been listed as international, national or Galician tourist attractions.
The many pilgrimage celebrations throughout Galicia represent the combination of beliefs of different origins. Many of them feature unusual rituals linked to the supposed curative properties of certain images, fountains or stones at shrines such as Santo André de Teixido and Nosa Señora da Barca. Many of these celebrations offer the perfect opportunity to sample traditional ring-shaped breads, savoury pies and cheeses, which taste that much better when eaten outdoors accompanied by the music of Galician bagpipes and tambourines.
Here we can list some of the most interesting and popular festivals of international interest in Galicia in summer time.
- The Feast of Apostle, on 24th July
The Galician capital celebrates its biggest festival during the second half of July, it is also the Day of Galicia. The schedule of events includes Galician folklore and classical music festivals, with large-scale concerts and smaller performances, orchestras, street theatre, conventional theatre, street entertainers, children’s programming, brass bands, comedy, dance and more.
Obradoiro Square is taken over by more than 20,000 people, who come to see a spectacular audiovisual show with lights and images projected on the cathedral façade.
The next day, there is a High Mass at the Cathedral, which includes the gigantic botafumeiro (censer). The king or a representative of the Royal House makes the traditional offering to St. James the Apostle at this mass.
Since 1961, Catoira has celebrated a pagan festival that recalls the town’s role as guardian of the treasure of Santiago Cathedral, when it was a strategic location in the defence against Viking invasions. The Torres de Oeste (ruins of two of the seven original towers of a fortress which stood up to various incursions by Norse pirates during the 9th and 10 centuries) is the natural historic setting for a re-enactment of a Viking invasion from that period.
Dozens of local youths arrive at the mouth of the Ulla River aboard a Norwegian drakkar, the Úrsula, making a great racket and sounding their horns. Armed to the teeth with axes and spears, taking cover behind shields, dressed in skins with helmets and swimming in red wine, the barbarians disembark amidst euphoric shouts and slugs of wine, sowing panic among the populace. When the onslaught is over, there is a traditional outdoor meal with a festive atmosphere. There is also a medieval market with stalls selling handicrafts and Galician culinary products. The celebrations continue with the Alameda street party, which takes place in town.
- International celtic festival in Ortigueira. On 3rd weekend of July
Thousands of people spend the night beside Morouzos Beach in Ortigueira, in a spacious free camping area under the pines. They have come to celebrate the Interceltic Festival of the Celtic World, which since 1978 has been the musical highlight of the summer in Galicia, a must-attend event for folk music lovers from all around the world. For four days and four nights, the town is enchanted by the music of groups and performers with common cultural roots. There is also the traditional parade of bagpipe bands from all the Celtic lands, including Scotland, Galicia and Asturias, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Wales and Brittany.
- A Rapa das Bestas de Sabucedo – A Estrada (Pontevedra) First weekend of July.
Of all the curros or rapas das bestas (wild horse mane-cutting festivals) that take place in Galicia each summer, Sabucedo is noteworthy for having preserved the purity of the tradition. It is the only curro in which the aloitadores (young fighters) face the horses on their own, without ropes or sticks, holding them still while their manes are cut.
Each year, young people from the parish take part in an ancient tradition they are born into, a way of understanding life in communion with the wild horses. They learn the code from an early age, based on the action and collaboration of three aloitadores, enabling them to undertake the noble and hazardous struggle with the animals and overcome their resistance. This is truly a unique tourist and ethnographic experience.
In the next post we will talk about national festivals in Galicia, which are as popular and interesting as the ones we have just seen above.
Buen Camino, amigos!
Photo2 viking http://indiatoday.intoday.in/
Photo 3 ortigueira http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/