Category Archives: Festivals

All Saints Day


Nadie más muerto que el olvidado (one is not dead until forgotten).  All Saints Day (Todos Los Santos) in Spain takes place on November 1st. It is a national public holiday and a hectic day of homecomings and high emotions. People from all over the country return to their native villages, towns or cities to lay flowers and remembrances on the graves of deceased relatives as a reminder that they are not forgotten.


Roads around cemeteries have bumper-to-bumper traffic, and additional public transport services are organized in larger towns and cities. The cemeteries are filled with people, so full that some wait until the 2nd of November to visit. Others visit a few days prior to November 1st to clean the graves and have them ready for Todos Los Santos. Weeks before the holiday, local flower shops circulate ads offering special floral arrangements — in fact, it is the time year when the most flowers are sold. And restaurants are full of family reunions.


On Todos Los Santos there is a tradition of eating roasted chestnuts (castañas). The chestnut element of the tradition comes from legend of Maria La Castañada, a chestnut seller, about whom there are many legends. One of the most common is as follows:

 Maria was a woman who always sold chestnuts when it began to dawn in the evening, but one day she stumbled because of her long skirt and all of the chestnuts she collected fell on the floor. Unfortunately she couldn’t find any of them again and so she got very angry, but then the goblins of the forest came to assure their help. And in the evening they came with lots of chestnuts and everyone was happy.


And there is a Catalan legend of why roasted chestnuts are eaten on All Saints Day:

 … the night before All Hallow’s Day the men rang the church bells to honor the dead. As it was a very long and hard work the men ate chestnuts because they are a great source of energy and helped them not to get cold. Often, family and friends came to support the men and so it ended in a big get-together.


Almond cakes are reminders of the days when home-made cakes and offerings were left with the bodies of the dead. At this time of the year, pastry shops offer huesos de santo (the saint’s bones) which have marzipan, eggs and sugar syrup and buñuelos de viento (puffs of wind) which are doughnuts sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. In Catalonia and Valencia, small almond cakes called pannellets are enjoyed.


A day for both mourning the loss of loved ones and celebrating life.



All photos © La Gringa Ibérica

Les falles de València: All about “Ninots”

Working on a Classic

Large “ninot”

Les falles (Valencian) “the fires” — also known as Las Fallas (Spanish) started in the 16th century as a celebration of the Catholic feast day for St. Joseph (Sant Josep), the patron saint of carpenters, and evolved into the 2-week, multifaceted celebration it is today. The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots (“dolls”), statues made of cardboard, wood, wax, paper-machè, plaster, and polystyrene foam. This whole assembly is a falla.


A satiric ninot (Menopause!)

In your Face

A political ninot (detail)

The ninots — which range in size from small to several stories high — usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events — plus whimsical ninots created by and for children.

Regal lgi

A ninot for children

I count two Little Falleras

A small ninot for children featuring traditional costume

The labor intensive ninots, are crafted by both neighborhood organizations (casals) and professional local craftsmen, take a entire year to construct. The festival has, in fact, created a local industry with an entire suburban area —Ciutat fallera (Fallas City) — devoted to the creation of ninots.


A large ninot in Plaza Pilar, 2014

Summer and Winter

Ninots, Ruzafa neighborhood, 2013

More than 350 ninots occupy a large percentage of the city’s intersections, plazas and alleys, and Valencia turns into a (very temporary) open air gallery. I always enjoy exploring the neighborhoods during Fallas — usually the crowds are smaller than city center and the creativity is amazing.

Open Heart

The Falla of Casal Na Jordana, 2015

The ninots remain in place until March 19th, the day known as La Cremá (“the burning”). Crowds gather, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire beginning at exactly 12 a.m. (midnight). Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. This ninot is called the ninot indultat (“the pardoned doll”) and is exhibited in the Fallas Museum along with the other ninots spared in years past (Fallas Museum, Plaza Monteolivete, 4, Valencia).

Neighborhood falla burning

The burning of the “ninots” in my neighborhood, 2014. You can feel the heat!

Neighborhood falla burning 2


A linguistic note: Les falles de València is celebrated in Valencià (Valencian), the official language of the community of Valencia —  thus ninot, casal, etc. are all Valencian words.


All photos © La Gringa Ibérica

Temps de Flors

This spring I decided to visit Girona during the Temps de Flors (Time of Flowers) festival, celebrating its 60th anniversary. The festival is held for 9 days in the middle of May.

The city of Girona is in northeastern Catalonia, beside the River Onyar. It’s known for its medieval architecture,with a walled old neighborhood (Barri Vell), including the Jewish quarter (Call) — one of the best preserved in Europe. During Temps de Flors the narrow, winding streets, gardens, patios and monuments are imaginatively adorned with flowers.

The festival is very popular and the crowds can be a challenge, as space is needed to fully appreciate the floral arrangements — this year there were 164 installations — quite a lot to see in a day, even arriving early. There is a free map, with a well-organized route, available at the Girona tourist office.

The restaurants of Girona are renowned for both traditional Catalan and cutting-edge cuisine but as often happens during festival days they were either booked or offering special menus beyond my budget. I was very glad to discover Lapsus Cafè on the Plaça de la Independència, offering a perfectly priced daily menu (3 courses plus wine for 9.50€) of traditional Catalan fare, plus very friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere.

…floral welcome…


…spring mix…


…pink and blue corner…


…a celebration…



 Temps de Flors website   

 Official Girona Tourist Office website

Lapsus Cafè



All photos © La Gringa Ibérica