One of the many benefits of travelling, in my opinion, is that it teaches you about the world. If you are open to the experience, you can learn a lot about a new place: history, traditions, celebrations, food… a new culture!
There are many different festivals and celebrations in Spain, both national and regional, and even local. Back in December I wrote about la Navidad (Christmas), which takes place between diciembre and enero. Febrero (February) is the month of el Carnaval (Carnival).
Unlike Navidad, el Carnaval has no fixed dates, but it is usually between the middle of febrero and the beginning of marzo (March). The duration can also vary a bit depending on the town, but it finishes on Miércoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday) and starts at least 3-4 days before that.
What should you expect?
- There are many different local traditions, but el Carnaval has some common characteristics: it is a period of fun, partying and excess in general. People dress up and wear masks, there are desfiles (parades) and, as I mentioned, a lot of partying.
So, if you are planning to walk during Carnaval, make sure you stay away from the noisiest areas in town (or that you have a good pair of tapones para los oídos aka earplugs!). Or… you could also take a break and join in the celebrations!
The desfiles will disrupt traffic and even general walking around town, so it might be a good idea to find out in advance if/when there will be one (mostly between Saturday and Tuesday and quite likely one on Ash Wednesday to finish off the celebrations).
- Apart from traffic disruptions, you may also want to keep in mind that there might be some festivos (public holidays). There are no national public holidays during the el Carnaval, so I can’t give you specific dates. But there is likely to be some local festivo here or there. Try to find out and plan (your shopping in particular) accordingly.
If there is a celebration, there is comida (food) associated to it. El Carnaval is not an exception. As I mentioned before, Carnaval is a period of excess, and it’s right before the beginning of Lent. This excess is reflected in the food, too.
Traditions change a lot from one region to another, so I’ll tell you about the typical Carnival foods in Galicia. After all, all Caminos lead to Santiago. And Santiago is in Galicia. There are three main typical foods.
- The main example would be cocido (cocido gallego, if you want to be specific; most regions have their own variations of cocido). This is a very substantial stew with a lot of meat (pork, beef, chicken) and vegetables. This is not just a Carnival dish, but rather a winter one, although it’s very common during the Carnaval.
The other two typical foods are sweet:
- Filloas are quite similar to crepes and they are usually eaten with a sweet filling: a bit of sprinkled sugar, honey, whipped cream, chocolate spread…
- Orejas (literally, ears). They are fried pastries, so called because their shape resembles that of an ear.
In the pictures below you can see orejas on the left and filloas on the right.
So, will you join in the celebrations?
And, if you’d like to listen to a Spanish version of this post, here’s the Spanish for the Camino podcast episode about el Carnaval.
Today’s Spanish words
Miércoles de Ceniza
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This is again very interesting. We will be on the Via de la Plata all of April. On Easter, we will be in Olivia de Plasencia. What are the “costumbres” we should be aware as pilgrims. Thanks for your interesting web sites and all of your topics.
Have you checked my post about Easter? In that, you can find out which are the most important days and what to expect. La Semana Santa