The best popular feasts in Biscay 2023
From July to September take over the streets
Localities on the coast and inland Biscay celebrate their patronal holiday during the summer period. There are plenty of concerts, pilgrimages, sporting events such as cycle races, regattas of “traineras”, “pelota mano”, “pala” or “cesta”, exhibitions of traditional sports (“herri kirolak”), street theatre, markets of loca products, gastronomic competitions and other events. All in all, great vibes and thousands of people looking forward to celebrating life. Just get into the spirit
Local festivals begin to spread in Biscay from the end of June onwards. Each town, district or neighbourhood has its own festival, with its own pride and joy. However, some of the most popular are the following.
Santurtzi, in mid-July, around the feast of Virgen del Carmen, patron saint of seafarers. Every 16th of July the oldest and most traditional seafaring procession on the Basque coast is held here.
Barakaldo, the second most populated city in Biscay, also honours Carmen. Thousands of young people come together at free concerts that take place there.
In Getxo, the festive calendar is full of festivities, one after the other. Santa Ana is celebrated in Las Arenas around the 20th of July; San Ignacio, in Algorta around the 29th; Nuestra Señora de los Angeles in Romo the first week of August, between the 1st and the 5th. The International Paella Competition that takes place in the meadows of Aixerrota has been postponed this year due to the General Elections and will take place on 25th July. The singular Puerto Viejo, where kalimotxo was invented, wears the arrantzale (fisherman) shirt in the second week of August.
The Madalenas are an absolute reference in the Basque Country’s festivity calendar. Every 22nd July Bermeo, Mundaka and Elantxobe celebrate the tradition that certifies that the Island of Izaro belongs to Bermeo. The fiesta, at sea and in each one of the three ports, lasts 24 hours. As big as Sanfermines, with no bulls, but waves and buckets of water.
In mid-August Gernika hosts its festivities. Spectacular games of cesta punta, oxen trials, stone-lifting and log- cutting, as well as concerts and other events light up the night in Gernika.
Lekeitio, with its famous challenge of the geese (antzarrak), celebrates the first week of September, being the 2nd, San Antolin, the reference date. Groups of young people row in their txalupas to the place from which a goose for years now synthetic has been hung on a tow rope (sirga). The point is for a boy or a girl to gan on the goose’s neck while the cable rises from the water of the port to a height of several meters and then falls back down again. This tradition goes back more than three and a half centuries.
From the first week of September onwards, the Virgin is worshipped in Lezama, Lanestosa, Dima, Otxandiano, Amorebieta-Etxano or Fruiz, for example. And Santa Eufemia in Bermeo.
Aste Nagusia in Bilbao
Bilbao’s Aste Nagusia (Great Week) is the most popular festival in the territory and in a large part of the north of the peninsula. Aste Nagusia lasts for nine days during which there is a programme, most of the events being completely free of charge, running almost 24 hours a day.
From the txupianzo that is launched from the balcony of the Arriaga Theatre on the 19th of August, the festivities get started under the protection of Mari Jaia, the smiling female genius of the fiesta. The Arenal, the Old Quarter, Plaza Nueva, a large part of Paseo de Uribitarte, Jardines de Albia, Doña Casilda Park and, in general, the entire city centre, come alive for the eagerly awaited Aste Nagusia. Theatre, bullfighting, concerts, activities for children and the elderly, pilgrimages, dancing, parades, cultural events of all kinds, as well as the endless Bilboko Konpartsak proposals take over everyday life. In addition, hotels and other private organisations also join the festive programme. Don’t miss Aste Nagusia. Or, even better, get lost in it.
Since 2009, Aste Nagusia has been one of Spain’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Treasures.
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