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Posts from the ‘Fiestas’ Category

Seville | Christmas in Seville

christmas market ayuntamientoArtisan market and City Hall lights

Yes, it’s that time of year again. And as the weather closes in and the shops fill up with too many people, maybe you should be thinking about doing Christmas somewhere else this year. Like Seville.

So why Seville? Well, for a start, it’s warmer. It’s not exactly beach weather, but it is one of the warmest places in Europe at this time of year. It’s also one of the most welcoming and festive, and whether you’re a resident or visitor there’s always something to see or do. In some ways it’s quite like many other cities. From early December the city lights up, with Christmas lights in all the major squares and thoroughfairs. The shopping districts are crowded, too, especially in the evenings, and the singers of Christmas carols are out and about, adding to the general hustle and bustle. Fresh roasted chestnuts are a big thing here as well, and you can see the sellers with their little charcoal stoves on handcarts on every street corner, providing a little something to overcome the gentle nip in the air.

belenBelén (nativity scene) in the Arqillo de San Francisco

Some things are just that little bit different, though. One thing you’ll notice is the popularity of Nativity Scenes, called Belens (Bethlehems). Not only does almost everyone have one at home, they’ll also queue for hours to see the best public ones, which can be impressive. Check out the ones in the Cathedral, beside the Ayuntamiento, outside Corte Inglés and in the Cajasol building in Plaza San Francisco.

setas marketLa Magia de Navidad

Perhaps because of the relatively mild, light evenings of southern Spain Christmas Fayres and markets are also a big thing in Seville. The annual Artesan market in Plaza Nueva and the Belen market next to the Cathedral are good for unusual presents, but there also the “Magia de Navidad” fayres around the Metropol Parasol and in the Alameda de Hercules, complete with donkey and rides, and fairground rides for the kids, as well as the stalls selling jewellery, leather goods and fast food. These last right through the holiday period to January 6, just before the children head back to school.

157-IMG_20131208_152238All the fun of the fair

Perhaps the biggest difference of all, though, is that in Spain, the day for giving presents is not Christmas day (although it’s becoming more common these days), but Epiphany (January 6). This is, after all, the day when the three Wise Kings – Los Reyes Magos, Caspar, Melchior and Baltazar – brought their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. The day before there is a big parade through the streets, the Cabalgata de los Reyes, with the kings and their assistants on floats throwing sweets to the children. It’s one of the year’s most popular events and draws huge crowds.

Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) and Christmas Day (Navidad) are for the family, and on Christmas Eve even the bars and restaurants are closed so that staff can enjoy the traditional Christmas Eve family meal at home.

151-IMG_20131208_153512Anyone for a ride?

Other holiday season traditions include the Day of the Innocent Saints (December 28), the Spanish equivalent of April Fools Day, and the eating of twelve grapes while the bells chime for New Year. Finishing them before the bells stop brings good luck for the next year.

Whatever your requirements there’s still time to book a holiday apartment with us over the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Seville | Feria de San Miguel

feria san miguelThe Feria de San Miguel in Seville is the short bullfighting season in autumn that falls on or close to Saint Michael’s Day (Michaelmas) on September 29. “Saint” Michael is not, strictly speaking, a saint, but an angel, one of three Archangels whose names appear in the bible (the others are Gabriel and Rafael). When taking time out from being commander of the heavenly hosts, he’s the patron saint of, among others, police officers, fire fighters, the military and paramedics, and also, more prosaically, of grocers (but not of bullfighters).

The bullfights of the Feria de San Miguel at the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, only last two days, Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th, both at 6pm, with tickets available online.

To coincide with the fights, the Abaceria San Lorenzo is hosting a three day event (September 25-27) with a menu of traditional beef dishes prepared from the Toro de Lidia, the unique breed of bulls raised for the fights. These will include steak tartare, beef sirloin, beef neck with tomato, rib eye steaks, chops, “babillas” with saffron, and red beans with beef cheeks, cola de toro (tail), meatballs and hamburgers.

cola de torocola de toro (oxtail)

Toros themed decoration and sculptures by Jacinto Oliva and Jesus Iglesias will add to the atmosphere of this traditional and rustic abaceria.

We still have a variety of quality holiday apartments to rent in Seville throughout the San Miguel weekend.

Seville | All the Fun of the Fair

Let it never be said that the Spanish don’t know how to party. And the place to party is at the annual local feria, or fair. Every town and city (and some city neighbourhoods) has its own, but one of the biggest and most famous is The April Fair (Feria de Abril) in Seville. Coming two weeks after Semana Santa, the big religious festival leading up to Easter, the fair is an almost pagan celebration of spring, and is all about having a good time. This year the official dates are from Tuesday, April 21 to Sunday, April 26, although in fact things really get going the day before, leading up to the alumbrado, the switching on of the lights, at midnight on Monday.

portada 2015putting the finishing touches on this year’s portada 

But the fair isn’t only about having a good time, it’s also about tradition – though like many traditions it’s not as hoarily ancient as you might think. The first April Fair was held in 1847 (okay, it’s old, but not as old as El Jueves or the Vela de Santa Ana) on the Prado de San Sebastian, and was initially a horse and cattle fair that was a kind of modernised version of mediaeval fairs. It moved to its present location, a purpose-built site on the southern edge of the suburb of Los Remedios, in 1973 (within living memory, so barely a tradition at all), by which time the cattle were long gone, and the fair had developed the character it has today.

feria horseshorse carriages and casetas

So, what’s it all about, and what are some of the traditions that make it so beloved by most Sevillanos? Well, first of all there’s the fairground itself. Even before you arrive, making your way towards it among the hurrying crowds generates a sense of expectation and excitement. You enter the fairground through a specially constructed gateway, the portada, which is rebuilt every year to represent some aspect of Seville (this year it’s the facade of the Bellas Artes Museum). Inside, especially at night with the strings of light bulbs and paper globes, everything is hustle and bustle and that strange combination of the tacky and the magical that is the hallmark of fairs and circuses the world over.  The streets are lined with small marquee style tents, called casetas, where people congregate to eat, drink and socialise, though the fact that most of these are private tends to exclude outsiders. You can, of course, get something to eat at one of the fast food stalls, or treat yourself to candy floss or some other sugary concoction.

feria dressescolourful flamenco dresses

In many ways there are two fairs. Daytime is for the horses and carriages that parade around the fairground, with the men dressed in the traditional traje corto (short jacket and tight trousers), and the women in traditional flamenco dresses, a time for society folks to  see and be seen, so if you like horses and spectacle this is the time for you.

At night is the second fair, the fair of lights and noise, the drinking of many rebujitos (sherry with 7-up) and dancing of Sevillanas  (a folk dance with flamenco style music) in the casetas, with traditional fried fish and  puchero to ward off hangover, that often carries on until dawn. You should also pay a visit to the Calle del Infierno (Hell Street) funfair, where the younger element can mostly be found, and scare yourself to death on one of the rides. On your way home stop for churros and chocolate, the breakfast for those who haven’t been to bed yet. The fair always ends (officially) with fireworks at midnight on the last day.

feria casetascasetas

The feria is also bullfighting season. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want to experience the atmosphere of a bullfight, tickets are available here.

To get to the fairground you can take a taxi, one of the regular bus services 6 or C1/C2, or the special Feria bus service that runs from the Prado San Sebastian. It’s also possible to walk, especially if you’re in the southern part of the city.

If you’re here for Feria, renting an apartment will give you the flexibility and do-as-you-please freedom to enjoy late nights and sleeping in, as well as seeing more of Seville.

Seville | Spanish Lifestyle

1-IMG_20140216_133811street life in Seville

Although the notion of a Spanish national character can easily be overdone, there are some cultural biases that people from the English-speaking countries will probably pick up on. The Spanish are generally ebullient, noisy and outward going, with a smaller personal space than you’re used to, and this combination can make them seem a bit “in-your-face”, especially given a widespread lack of foreign language skills (the Swiss and the Belgians can look smug at this point; the Brits and the Americans should probably keep quiet). But really, they’re by and large friendly and hospitable.

Timetables. Partly as a product of climate, and partly because Spanish clocks are an hour out of kilter, everything happens later in the day than you’re used to. A lot of people don’t start work until 10, lunch starts at 2 not 12, and carries on through siesta until 5. Then everything opens up again until 8 or 9. Dinner (usually tapas if you’re eating out) is after that, and may carry on until midnight, especially in summer. In school holidays and at weekends you’ll also see lots of quite young children out and about at this time.

There’s a good reason why “siesta” is the most widely understood Spanish word in the non-Spanish speaking world – it’s just such a good idea. Although a long afternoon break is anathema to the corporatist work ethic of much of Northern Europe and America, it actually conforms to the natural rhythm of the human body. And in the days before aircon, or if you’re working outside, what else could you be doing in the heat of the summer sun? It also allows you to stay up late and get up early.

jamonjamón Ibérico de Bellota

When it comes to eating out the hustle, bustle and sociability of the tapeo is an essential part of Spanish culture in general, and Sevillano culture in particular. Despite the buzz, it’s essence is laid back and informal, with lots of sharing and conversation, and at the end of the evening, lots of lingering over a final drink. People often go from bar to bar, but no one ever tries to move you on to clear the tables for the next shift. Visitors often remark on how civilised this way of eating and drinking feels.

Before the tapeo, if work schedule and weather permit, is the paseo, the evening stroll. The Spanish live outside more than their northern counterparts, and on a warm spring or autumn evening what could be finer than a walk out of doors and perhaps a bit of window-shopping?

arenal (2)Bullfighting is still very popular in most of Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. They still kill the bull, and the ritual and symbolism are part of every Spaniard’s repertoire, even if they’ve never been to a bullfight. These days the social, see and be seen, aspects of attending a bullfight are as important as the fight itself (unless you’re a bull).

Religious processions are very popular throughout Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. Although strict religious belief and observance are in decline, Spain is still very much a Catholic country, and in Seville participants prepare all year for major events such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) which still draws huge crowds.

Even if (unfairly) the Spanish, especially in southern Spain, don’t have a reputation for working hard, they do have a reputation for knowing how to party. Every locality has its annual fair where they dress up in flamenco costume, dance the night away and drink lots of rebujito (a cocktail of sherry and 7up). In Seville the Feria is in April.feria flamenco dresses

All this, of course, just scratches the surface, and if you want to find out more about why so many people love Spain and its relaxed lifestyle, you need to come and stay in one of our holiday apartments and experience it for yourself.

Seville | Immaculate Conception Day and the Night of the Tunas

inmaculada abcphoto courtesy of ABC Sevilla

As in so many other places, Christmas in Seville seems to come earlier every year. The lights are switched on sooner, Christmas markets open earlier, and so on. In Seville, however, we do have an official start of the Christmas season, which helps to keep a check on the excesses. It’s the Day of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated as a public holiday on December 8. Not to be confused with the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception refers to the protection of the Virgin Mary from original sin by God’s direct intervention at her conception. Although believed in by many from quite early times, it only became Catholic dogma in 1854, and in Seville it was naturally seized on as another opportunity for getting out in the street to celebrate. The monument to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin in the Plaza del Triunfo was built in 1918, the four figures around the base (Juan de Pineda, Bartolomé Murillo, Miguel Cid and Martinez Montañés) were staunch propagandists for the doctrine.

inmaculada sevillastatue of the Inmaculada in Plaza Triunfo Seville

Nowadays the most popular and visible part of these celebrations is the “Night of the Tunas”. This has nothing to do with fish (in Spanish these are atún). Tunas are roving bands of musicians (usually attached to various faculties of the university) in “medieval” costume, who can often be seen plying their trade outside the bars for a free beer while they chat up girls, but on the evening of December 8 they congregate around the monument for a friendly competition to sing the praises of the Virgin. Considerable crowds gather in and around the square, and the singing and festivities can carry on until dawn.


[watch from 3:35 – 6:05 to see the tunas in front of the Inmaculada]

On the previous evening (December 7), there is a vigil for the Virgin in the Cathedral, and the day itself begins with a less well-known tradition, the Gozos (joys) de la Inmaculada, three bugle fanfares that are sounded from the belltower of the Antonio Abad church in Calle Alfonso XII, followed by a marching band procession to the monument and on to the Murillo Gardens.

The main religious service in the Cathedral is held the following day, and includes the Dance of Los Seises (the choirboys) in front of the main altar, one of only three occasions each year when this is done. The choirboys (originally 6 of them, which is what gave the dance its name, but now 10) are dressed in medieval costumes, which because of a Papal edict can never be replaced, only repaired. The dance goes back to at least the 16th century, and probably longer, predating the Day of the Immaculate Conception.

_MG_8835.JPGLos Seises – photo courtesy of ABC Sevilla

If you’re in Seville The Night of the Tunas is a great excuse for staying up all night in the best Sevillano tradition, and after a day to recover, the serious business of Christmas can get under way in earnest.

If you’re thinking of taking a Christmas break in Seville why not try one of our  holiday apartments?