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The coplas to Santa Agueda that awaken the earth

I f you are in Biscay on 4 February you will see people in the streets carrying thick walking sticks. There’s nothing to worry about. They are part of the choirs of Santa Agueda.



January 2023

Throughout the day, whether it is a festive or a working day, groups of singers go out to perform in circles of varying size the songs in honour of the Sicilian saint.

They perform it in Basque and at the same time they keep the rhythm by banging their sticks against the ground. One of them wears a black blouse and a hat instead of a txapela (a traditional hat, very similar to a beret). Another one holds a lantern at the end of a stick.

Originally, in many places, the choirs were made up of young men who left for military service and went around the villages and homes of their municipalities one at a time. They would perform the copla (song) that best suited the people who lived in the house, and the man in black would open his wais pouch to collect the coins to be distributed among the singers. They began before dawn and ended after dark, tha’s the reason for the lantern that illuminated the paths.

In ancient times, it was probably a rite to ‘awaken’ the fertility of the earth before the arrival of spring, later adapted to Christian religiosity through the figure of Agueda, also associated with fertility.

Whatever the case may be, nowadays it enables both small towns all over Biscay and Bilbao itself to vibrate with the choirs throughout the day and well into the evening.

Follow one of these and enjoy the rhymes and percussion, often accompanied by bells. Leave your coins in the waist pouch presented to you: the money raised is donated to charities.

Santa Ágeda Bizkaia




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