Fiesta Nacional de España 2018 and 2019
Fiesta Nacional de España is one of two “national days” of Spain and is held annually every October 12th on the day that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492.
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The celebration has been observed since 1935 and shares its national day status with Constitution Day, which falls on August 3rd.
Up until 1987, the holiday was known as “Dia de la Hispanidad,” emphasizing Spain’s common Hispanic identity with Latin American nations. The name change came, however, to avoid any connection to Spain’s colonialist past. The choice of the date, Columbus’ sighting of the Bahamas, was a compromise between royalist and republican Spaniards that was struck in the midst of much political turmoil and many regime changes in the 20th Century.
Other countries also have holidays associated with Christopher Columbus. October 12th is called “Discovery Day” in the Bahamas and is known by yet other names in Costa Rica, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, and elsewhere in Latin America. In the U.S., the date is not as “stable.” Columbus Day falls in some states on the second Monday of every October (though it is gradually being replaced by holidays that draw attention to Native American communities whose history was inextricably marked by the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
Spaniards take Fiesta Nacional de España as an off-work day and a time to spend with family and friends. Many businesses are closed, though the tourist will still find certain bakeries and food stores open. Public transportation runs on a reduced schedule in the cities but may be non-existent in the country. Be aware that, should October 12th fall on a Sunday, local authorities may move the date, likely to the following Monday. An off-day may even be added on Monday if October 12th comes mid-week to ensure a long weekend for families to get out of town for a mini-vacation.
Should you find yourself in Spain for Fiesta Nacional de España, three activities you may wish to take part in are as follows:
- Attend the main Fiesta Nacional de España parade in Madrid, which has been held there every year since 2000. You will see the king raise the Spanish flag, while the prime minister leads the procession. Military vehicle will pass through the streets as the air force soars overhead, leaving trails of red and yellow smoke. If you can’t attend in person, the event is till worth watching on t.v. or hearing on the radio.
- See the Christopher Columbus Monument in Barcelona. The statue is nearly 200 feet tall and is situated at the end of the famous tourist-frequented street known as “Las Ramblas.” The monument was built for the 1888 Universal Exposition of Barcelona to honour Columbus’ daring voyage across the Atlantic. It was in Barcelona that Columbus reported his discovery of “a new world” to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who had sent him out. The statue is very ornately designed and has Columbus standing on top of a towering pillar. He points out with his hand over the sea, as if to indicate the vast new lands he had found.
- Attend the Fiestas del Pilar, which have their grandest day on October 12th. October 12th is not only Fiesta Nacional de España, but is also the day on which the city of Zaragoza honors its patron saint, the Virgen of Pilar. You will find a weekend of festivities, including parades, a funfair, a circus, various kids’ activities, a solemn mass, music concerts, a beer fest, and the stunning sight of the ceremonious offering of the fruits and the flowers.
Spain is a land full of history and that contains diverse cultural regions, including Catalonia, Navarre, Galicia, and more. It is a land with a proud history, including its monumental discovery of the New World in 1492. Tourists can learn much about the people and customs of Spain by visiting during Fiesta Nacional de España. Be sure to book early, however, for this is a busy time of year.