Día de Santiago in Spain

Día de Santiago or Saint James’ Day

We have mentioned it before, but name days are a big deal in Spain (read the original post here). However, as you might imagine, some Saints are more important than others in Spanish history and, therefore, their days are more celebrate. Saint James’s Day—Día de Santiago in Spanish—is one of those days.


What is it

Every year on the 25th of July Spain celebrates the Día de Santiago or the Patron Saint of Spain. This Saint is also known as the Saint of Galicia and, as we mentioned in this post, is where his remains can be found. Although Santiago is celebrated around Spain on this day, it is only a public holiday in Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia.


The History

A sign for the Camino de Santiago or the pilgrimage of Saint James.James the Apostle is an important figure in Christian history as he is thought to be one of the original supporters of Jesus Christ, together with his brother John. It is then thought that James made is way preaching about Christianity all the way to Spain. When he returned to Israel it is said that he was killed and his remains were sent back to Spain where they landed in Galicia.

Since his remains were discovered around 813, pilgrims have traveled to see them (the Camino de Santiago or the way of Saint James). In addition, Spanish kings have paid great respect to the remains and in 1630 this Saint became the Patron Saint of Spain. Today in the city of Santiago de Compostela you can also find a large cathedral built in his honor and every year celebrations, including offerings made by the royal family, are held on the 25th of July.

Like many things celebrating differences across Spain, the celebration of Saint James were repressed under the rule of Francisco Franco (read more about him here). However, after his death in 1975 and the transition back to democracy, the Día de Santiago was reestablished as a holiday in 1979 and an official public (bank) holiday in Galicia.


Main Activities:

Starting on the eve of Día de Santiago, you will see parts of the celebration. On the 24th of July there is a firework show in Santiago de Compostela and people begin to enjoy their holiday. On the 25th of July you will be able to see different church services and exhibitions from different Galician artists. In addition, you will probably find theater productions and street artists around the city.

Finally, you should pick up a tarta de Santiago or a traditional Galician cake made with almonds and topped with powdered sugar (and, usually, a cross of Saint James). This cake will be available all along the Camino and in Galician towns, however, it will be more popular and easier to find around the day of Saint James.



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