Although they have lost part of their original functions with the passing of time, Santiago de Compostela's fiestas and traditions are still of great cultural interest; this, along with the city's historical-artistic heritage, is a reflection of its unique personality and character.
Compostela's most outstanding fiesta, due to its splendour and international scope, is that of the Apostle Santiago , the patron saint of the city, and also of Galicia and Spain . But each fiesta has its own meaning and atmosphere…
Thus, although it is to be expected that, in Christendom's third holy city after Jerusalem and Rome, religion would feature prominently in the calendar of feasts (Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week, parish feasts), the festivities are also related to the earth's productive cycle. This is reflected in the abundance of agricultural and gastronomic festivals (Magosto, “annual markets” of the Ascension and the Apostle) or those related to the sun (San Juan) .
However, their original religious and agricultural nature is now combined with a varied cultural programme: music or dance festivals, street theatre, children's and recreational activities, etc, which enrich and light up the city's traditional celebrations.
Particularitities of our celebrations
Glossary for understanding our fiestas:
“Romería” . This is a characteristic type of fiesta combining religiosity (mass accompanied by a procession) and secular festivities (open-air dance and snack bars, folklore –bagpipe players and “muiñeira” dances- etc). Those attending “romerías” are called “romeros”, who come in search of some kind of favour. They therefore offer the saint a gift or ex-voto, which are normally made of wax and auctioned (to finance the upkeep of the church). This is the case of the San Lázaro “romería” , to which people still take pig's trotters, a tradition that has resulted in an exquisite gastronomic recipe that is typically made in the area on the saint's feast day: pig's trotters with cabbage shoots.
“Bombas de palenque”. In almost all of Santiago's fiestas, you can hear an abundance of loud firecrackers going off all day; this reminds everybody –residents, visitors and the inhabitants of nearby villages- that there is a fiesta in the city, while also serving to honour the saint. This is also the purpose of the fireworks during the city's most important fiesta: that of the Apostle Santiago.
The “muiñeira” (traditional Galician dance), the music of “gaitas” (bagpipes), “pulpeiras” (women that prepare octopus at temporary stands set up during the fiesta), “rosquilleras” (women selling ring-shaped pastry)… are other traditional features that still form an important part of the city's fiestas.
It is also worth mentioning the close relationship that has always existed between fiestas –both religious and pagan- and gastronomy. Thus, each festivity has its own gastronomic traditions and recipes , which reflect the excellent quality of Galician produce.