RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL FESTIVALS

1. Epiphany

prac_info 5 Jan

The first festival of the year is the La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Procession of the Kings). Floats parade along the main streets, and the Kings throw candies out to the people. The three wise men are played by local politicians or businessmen.

2. Neighbourhood Festivals

Each neighbourhood (barrio) organizes its own celebrations to mark local red-letter days. These range from the blessing of pets in the church of San Antón, Calle Hortaleza (17 January), to Chinese New Year in Lavapiés (end of January/early February).

3. Carnival

prac_info Feb

The fun begins the weekend before Shrove Tuesday with fancy dress competitions, brass bands and a procession followed by a spectacular show on Plaza Mayor. Ash Wednesday is marked by the “Burial of the Sardine”. The mock funeral procession leaves from the church of San Antonio de la Florida and ends with the burial in the Casa de Campo.

TopTen

Carnival reveller

4. Holy Week

prac_info Mar/Apr

The three days leading up to Easter are marked by solemn religious processions. On Holy Thursday, the image of Jesus is carried through the city by penitents wearing traditional purple hoods, and chains around their feet. The following evening is the procession of Jesús de Medinacelli, which leaves from the basilica of the same name, before winding its way around the city centre.

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Penitents carrying the statue of Jesus on Holy Thursday

5. San Isidro

prac_info 15 May

The feast day of Madrid’s patron saint is celebrated with a procession to the Ermita de San Isidro, to the south-west of the city. Madrileños dress up in traditional costumes and picnic on rosquillas (doughnuts). There is also a fair, brass bands and sports events. San Isidro also marks the beginning of the bullfighting season.

6. Veranos de la Villa

prac_info Jul–Sep

The Summer Arts Festival is a season of concerts (pop, classical, flamenco), theatre productions, ballets and films – all featuring international as well as Spanish artists. Venues range from theatre and concert halls to the Centro Cultural Conde Duque.

7. Festival de Otoño a Primavera

prac_info Mid-Oct–mid-Apr

For five months each year this major cultural festival promotes the arts with an ambitious programme of dance music, drama and film by international companies. Productions take place in venues across the city.

8. Virgen de la Almudena

prac_info 9 Nov

To mark the Feast of the Virgin of Almudena, the image of the patroness of Madrid is carried in procession through the centre of the city, followed by a mass in the cathedral which bears her name (see The Virgin of Almudena).

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Virgen de la Almudena

9. Christmas Nativity Scene Fair

prac_info 1 Dec–8 Jan

The large and spectacular Christmas Fair on Plaza Major has more than 100 booths, selling cribs (belenes), Nativity scene figures, trees and beautiful decorations.

10. New Year’s Eve

prac_info 31 Dec

To be among the crowds in the Puerta del Sol on the most exciting night of the year is an unforgettable experience. On the stroke of midnight join the revellers in observing the custom of swallowing grapes, one after each chime. Bags of grapes and bottles of sparkling wine are sold from nearby stalls.

TOP 10 SPANISH CELEBRATORY CAKES

1. Roscón de Reyes

prac_info 6 Jan

Round buns with almonds and candied fruit, usually containing a small charm.

TopTen

Roscón de Reyes

2. Panecillos de San Antonio

prac_info 13 Jun

Small rolls marked with a cross are served at the Church of San Antonio.

3. Torrijas

prac_info Holy Week

Slices of milk-soaked bread are fried and laced with cinnamon and sugar.

4. Monas de Pascua

prac_info Holy Week

Very sweet brioches which are, rather strangely, eaten with hard-boiled eggs.

5. Rosquillas del santo

prac_info 15 May

Small doughnuts with a variety of flavours and bizarre names – “the fool”, “the intelligent one” and “Santa Clara” are just some of them.

6. Suspiros de modistillas

prac_info 13 Jun

“Needlewomen’s sighs” are meringues filled with praline.

7. Huesos de santo

prac_info 1 Nov

Marzipan sweets sculpted to look like “saints’ bones”.

8. Buñuelos de viento

prac_info 1 Nov

Small profiteroles filled with cream, custard or chocolate.

9. Turrón

prac_info Christmas

Nougat, hard or soft, and made in various flavours.

10. Polvorones

prac_info Christmas

Crumbly biscuits flavoured with cinnamon and almonds.

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