Constitution Day 2017 and 2018
Dia de la Constitucion, or “Constitution Day,” is a Spanish holiday commemorating the adoption of Spain’s current constitution, which passed by referendum on December 6th, 1978.
|2017||6 Dec||Wed||Constitution Day||National|
|2018||6 Dec||Thu||Constitution Day||National|
Though the monarchy was retained, the new constitution ended the 36-year rule of Francisco Franco and established a constitutional, limited monarchy that was essentially democratic in nature.
The lead-up to the new constitution came with the death of Franco and new parliamentary elections held in June of 1977. The parliament proceeded to write up the constitution, it passed overwhelmingly with 88 percent of the vote, and King Juan Carlos signed it on December 27th. From that time on, December 6th has been a public holiday in Spain. Interestingly, the Spanish constitution has only been amended once, when the right to vote was granted to all EU citizens residing within Spain’s borders.
Official celebrations of Constitution Day are primarily engaged in only by government officials and celebrities, and to many, the off-work day they receive is simply a chance to relax at home with family and friends. To others, it is an ideal time to protest the government for reforms. Since another Spanish holiday, Immaculate Conception Day, occurs on December 8th, many also take off the 7th to create a longer vacationing period.
For school children, Constitution Day means additional history lessons, and a select few high school students are even honoured to come to the parliament building in Madrid and publicly read a copy of the constitution there.
The flag of Spain will be prominently displayed on homes, businesses, government buildings, buses, and trains. Its read and yellow bands of colour so familiar to modern Spaniards were first adopted as part of the constitution ratified in 1978, so it is more than “routine patriotism” that makes it appropriate to fly this flag on December 6th. Some will fly Spain’s flag by itself, but you will also notice that some fly it alongside of the European Union flag.
On Constitution Day, most places of business close down. In the cities, public transportation operates on a shortened schedule, and in the country, it may not exist at all. For this reason, you should carefully plan out your travels in advance.
If in Spain for Constitution Day, some of the main “things to do” include:
- Visit the Spanish parliamentary buildings in Madrid, which are open to the public during this time. The entrance to “El Palacio de las Cortes de España” is off Carrera de San Jeronimo across from la Plaza de las Cortes. The building is a beautiful neoclassical structure built back in 1843. It has a huge library and many representations of important Spanish historical figures inside. In the triangular facade above the steps in front of the building, you can see a relief sculpture of the people of Spain embracing their new constitution.
- Tour Spain’s museums, many of which have free admission on Constitution Day. Consider stopping by the Decorative Arts Museum, the San Fernando Fine Arts Museum, the National Anthropology Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, the Costume Museum, and the Museum of the Americas in Madrid.
- You will see many pictures and copies of the 1978 constitution displayed on December 6th, and you can also see the monument dedicated to its passage in the heart of Madrid. If you want to see the original, however, you will need to visit the Spanish Congress of Deputies. Seeing the authentic signature of Juan Carlos I simply and the actual ink and paper of the real document simply cannot be replaced.
A visit to Spain on Spain’s Constitution Day will expose you to important aspects of Spanish history and culture. You will find much to learn, much to enjoy, and it is sure to be an experience you will never forget.