I read somewhere that Spain has more festivals than any other country in the world. But when I translated that into Spanish for part of my final test in Spanish class, it didn’t go over too well with my university instructor. “What??? Where in the world did you get THAT idea? That’s not true – Brazil [her Spanish speaking country of choice] has way more fiestas than Spain!” Ok, ok, keep your shirt on. It was just something I read.
But the fact is that one of the great surprises in visiting Spain is that if you explore at all you have a good chance of stumbling across some kind of celebration or festival. I’ve happened across at least one festival I didn’t know about every time I’ve come to Spain over the past 12 years. It’s always a fun surprise, and you never know what you’re going to see.
This weekend, for instance, is the “la Puente de Pilar,” or the “bridge of Pilar.” Let me explain what a “bridge” means when it’s attached to a holiday, because I think this is something we need to have Congress put into law. Like, yesterday. In Spain, somehow holidays often fall on Tuesday instead of Monday, so as any good Spaniard will tell you, that means that — of course — we have to “bridge” that icky work day on Monday and create a “puente” – a bridge to connect the weekend to the holiday. Voila! 4 day holiday instead of just 3! Why didn’t we think of that?
Very quick history lesson. The story goes that the Virgin, standing on a pillar of marble, appeared to the Apostle Santiago, and instructed him to build a church there. So he built the basilica in Zaragoza in northern Spain. Like most nationally celebrated festivals (there are national, regional, and local festivals – go figure), this one has a home where it’s celebrated more elaborately than in other cities. Since Zaragoza is the home of the church, it’s also the center of the festival of Pilar.
At first the festival was all about religious festivities, but now it includes all sorts of cultural activities like theatre, music, food, etc. Notice how I snuck “food” in there as a cultural activity… And, interestingly, in this case “bridge” doesn’t just mean bridging a workday to get to a holiday, it also literally means there’s a bridge by the church.
Our lesson for today, kids? It’s worth the effort to just wander around in Spain. You’re bound to find a party. Get out there and explore!