In Spain it always feels like the are celebrating some event or another and public holidays have a tendency to pop up, making weeks shorter (and festive). That is why today we are covering the types of celebrations you will experience when living abroad in Spain.
We have talked about them before, but both birthday and name day celebrations are a big thing in Spain. You can check out the posts we have for each of them here and here, but below you’ll find a quick overview.
Birthdays: Like many places around the world, Spaniards love to celebrate birthdays. However, their celebrations are a bit different than you might be used to. One they are mostly family-led. And, if you are organizing an event for your friends for your special day, you should know you are expected to invite them (aka pay for their drinks/food).
Name Days: Different to what you are probably used to back home, Spaniards also tend to celebrate name days or their saint days. These days are basically like a second birthday and a great excuse for people to get together or call each other and chat.
National Holidays: Like many places, there are several national holidays that you will see the entire country celebrating. In the UK they are known as bank holidays, or days when the banks close across the country. In Spain they celebrate:
New Year’s Day (January 1st) and Epiphany (January 6th)
Good Friday (varies)
Labor Day (May 1st)
Assumption Day (August 15th)
Hispanic Day (October 12th)
All Saints’ Day (November 1st)
Constitution Day (December 6th)
Immaculate Conception Day (December 8th)
Christmas Day (December 25th)
Local Holidays: In addition to these few nation-wide holidays, you will find many different holidays in the different regions of Spain. For example, most places have a Patron Saint, so they will celebrate the community’s saint’s day. In addition, many regions have other special days that are declared public holidays.
Even though there are not any true week long holidays (where public businesses actually close for a full week), there are two main times during the calendar year when you feel like everything is on pause for celebrations. These two holidays are based on the Catholicism that is still alive in the country are Semana Santa and Christmas
Semana Santa: We have talked a lot about Semana Santa (such as this post and this one) because it is such an important holiday in Andalucía, the south of Spain. While there is only, technically, one or two days of public holiday (depending on the region), you will find that many places close at least three or four days over the course of the week and that many schools and other institutions will remain closed for the entirety of the week.
Note: If you are in Spain as a study abroad student and want to take this opportunity to travel outside of Spain, we recommend that you delegate at least one weekend to the Spanish activities.
Christmas: The Christmas celebrations around Spain will have some things in common with what you are used to but will probably be different as well (or even, as in the case of a Catalan Christmas, very different). And you should remember that the main day for celebrating Christmas is the 6th of January when the three kings bring gifts to children! However, the main idea of Christmas is spending time with your family and loved ones.
In addition to these wider-spread holidays, you will also find that different regions around Spain will also have longer holiday celebrations such as the feria in Sevilla, Corpus Christi in Granada, and Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christains) in Villena.
Last but not least, it is important to recognize the summer holidays in Spain. We have talked places closing in August and it being difficult to get stuff done during the month in this article. These hard earned summer holidays are often looked forward to by young and old alike (even if it does seem to make your trip as a foreigner a bit more difficult). It you happen to be in Spain during the summer heat of August, we can recommend traveling like a Spaniard and either enjoying the beach or the mountains like we talked about in this article.
Like cultures around the world, Spanish people hold their holidays near and dear to their hearts, celebrating them accordingly. Therefore, while the list might not seem like much, the holidays in Spain are well worth experiencing and if you can figure out a way to see several of them during your time in Spain, you will not be disappointed. Let us know what you see!