From New Year’s parties to Three Kings Day parades the early part of the year is a busy time for celebrations across the country. Other major festivals in Spain in January include the La Tamborrada drum playing procession which is part of the Festivals of San Sebastian. Palma de Mallorca also hosts fiestas which honour San Sebastian. And for something completely different, there’s a turnip throwing festival in in Cáceres.
What’s On in Spain in January?
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja) in Spain is celebrated with a late family dinner and ringing in the new year at midnight. Traditionally Spanish people eat one grape per chime of the the clock at midnight. As the new year begins, fireworks light up the skies all over Spain and parties take place throughout the rest of the night. Check out our article about Christmas in Spain to learn about what happens over this festive period.
Día de los Reyes Magos
The traditional Christian celebration of the Epiphany is the main event on the Christmas calendar for children in Spain. The festivities begin on the night of 5th January with the Cabalgata de Reyes Magos when the Three Kings (Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar) parade through towns and cities across the country, on the back of elaborately decorated floats. They throw sweets to children amongst the crowds lining their route. After the procession the children go home to clean their shoes and leave them out shoes for the Three Wise Men to fill with gifts and treats.
The next morning, parades are held across Spain to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings with the largest of these parades taking place in Madrid. Traditionally this is a day when families meet up and enjoy a big lunch together which ends with the traditional Roscón de Reyes for dessert.
Festividad de San Sebastián
Where? San Sebastián (Basque Country)
The Festividad de San Sebastián honours the patron saint of the Basque coastal city of San Sebastián on 20th January. Locals celebrate with religious processions, concerts, dances and gastronomic events. The day begins with a procession carrying the saint’s relics through the streets to the Basilica. Later that evening, people gather for a colourful parade of floats, giants, and drummers.
Where? San Sebastián (Basque Country)
Coinciding with the Feast of San Sebastián is La Tamborrada when thousands of locals, dressed in white shirts with green scarves and black berets, march through the streets of San Sebastian playing drums and barrels. This enormous procession goes on for twenty-four hours, filling the city with constant drum beats in honour of San Sebastian. People of all ages take part in this lively celebration.
Sant Sebastià Festival in Palma de Mallorca
Where? Palma de Mallorca
San Sebastian is also the patron saint of Palma de Mallorca where cultural activities are held for a fortnight during the second half of January. The main night to be in the city is on 19th January when a massive bonfire is burnt in the Plaça Major and musical concerts are held in numerous venues around Palma. The streets are packed with revellers long into the early hours.
Where? Piornal – Cáceres (Extremadura)
And the weirdest of all the festival in Spain in January goes to Jarramplas. This is an annual festival held in the town of Piornal in the province of Cáceres in mid-January. It centres around a colourfully costumed character named Jarramplas who represents a cattle thief from the town’s past. On January 19th, people dress up as stewards to help with the festivities. The next day, Jarramplas parades through the streets beating a drum while townspeople pelt him with turnips as a punishment for his crimes.
The person playing Jarramplas wears protective padding under their costume to cushion the continuous blows. It is considered an honour to withstand the ordeal for as long as possible. Parents often sign up their children at a young age to participate when they are older, as there is a long waiting list. Jarramplas keeps this decades-old tradition alive for the townspeople of Piornal. The unique festival is recognized for its cultural significance, having been declared a Regional and National Tourist Festival over the years.