Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Valencia's 600 or so annual fiestas





As we have mentioned many times before, there are over 600 fiestas annually in the Comunidad Valenciana alone. The biggest and best is the Extraordinary Las Fallas held between the 15th and 19th March each year, and the most famous is La TOmatina, the crazy tomato throwing fight held each year on the last wednesday in August.
Almost every town, village and hamlet celebrates Fiestas Patronales at some time of the year. This week it is the turn of Quart (among many others) and their fiestas are dominated by cattle, Bous y Vaquillas (bulls and cows). The entire village is gated with 2 metre high reinforced steel gates - bars just wide enough for pedestrian inhabitants to squeeze through - and the village is virtually traffic free for the duration.
The larger, and more sedate, bulls are let loose in the street, one at a time, twice a day on two days of the week-long fiesta. Once, in the early evening, they are chased (and chase) the younger braver men of the village. Then later at around midnight they chase around the village again - but this time they are 'embollar' - flaming torches are attached to their horns. The larger bull shown above unfortunately rammed the gate too hard and did serious damage to itself and had to be put down prior to the midnight outing.
The cows, who are fiestier and more nimble -and therefore much more fun to play with- make a San Fermin style entry into the village. Half a dozen of them enter the Plaza Mayor, which has cages to hide in all around the Plaza and one cow at a time is pitched against the young men. I was amazed that there was no sand on the ground and the cows kept sliding on the wax from the hundreds of candles from the previous night's religious procession.
It is all quite curious, but extremely popular with not only the locals but people from all around the area who descend on the village to take part or watch.
There is a fantastic sense of friendship around the villages during fiestas, on the night of the big procession people were sharing meals with neighbours and friendsat long tables in the streets in front of their houses and tradition holds that you open your front doors wide as the procession passes. Look in the press for Nuestras Fiestas and try and take a walk around a village during this lovely family time . video

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