San Sebastián ready to celebrate
This month our blog article will be about two very moments for our city and its people: the 15th of August and the 20th of January.
The 15th of August: The Semana Grande
If a Donostiarra (people of San Sebastián) is asked about his/her favorite day of the year, It is very likely that the 15 of August comes up first.
It is indeed a great day for San Sebastián because Semana Grande (great week) is celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary every 15th of August.
If you travel around Spain this summer, you will notice that it is a really important date all over the country as many places celebrate their local festivities in honor of the Virgin Mary . However our Aste Nagusia (great week in euskera) is very special. Adding up to all the city's usual attractions (beach, mountain, gastronomy…) a whole week full of events and activities for all tastes and ages is organized: concerts, horse races, swim crossings, giants and bigheads dances... And as night falls, the magic of the International Firework Competition over the Concha Bay begins.
The 31st of August: commemoration of the tragic fire and the city’s revival
The last day of the month, the people of San Sebastián commemorate a tragic episode of their history: the fire that devastated the city on the 31st of August in 1831. The incident took place at the end of the Spanish War of Independence. The Napoleonic army receded towards the French border as a consequence of the advance of the allied troops commanded by Wellington. However, the Gipuzkoa capital was still occupied by the French.
In the summer of 1813, the English and Portuguese troops besieged the city to force the French to surrender. The two sides fought and, as a result, the city ended up totally devastated. San Sebastián people discovered in horror how those who had come to release them were actually committing burglary, rapes and killing innocent people.
The giant fire burnt the whole city – except from one tiny part of the Trinidad street, in the old part, that thereafter was called 31 de Agosto street. From that day people of San Sebastián began to rebuild their beautiful city and promised to themselves that they would never forget that day.
To commemorate this tragedy, every 31st of August the txistularis, parade around the old town from very early in the morning . Then, a mass is celebrated at the church of Santa María del Coro. In the evening, a tribute to the victims is organized. The day ends with the lightning of candles in the 31 de Agosto street, followed by a ceremonial walk in the light of torches while the old anthem of San Sebastián is played. The writer Toti Martínez de Lecea in her novel La Brecha relates this event wonderfully.
The 20th of January: San Sebastián’s Feast Day
The other important and main feast day in our city is the 20th of January, San Sebastián’s Day, named after its patron saint. In his honor the famous Tamborrada is performed: parades that pass through the streets to the drums’ rhythm. Among the participants, some play the drum and wear military uniforms of the Napoleonic period, and others, dressed like cooks accompany them playing wooden barrels. This is a 24 hour celebration - very intense and emotional for the people of San Sebastián. Lacunza IH former students who have been lucky enough to experience this day in San Sebastián keep a wonderful memory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2HtiL4lcuc
If you feel like discovering San Sebastian and sharing these unique moments with the people of the city, don’t forget that in Lacunza IH San Sebastián we are experts in organising language and cultural immersion quality stays. We are waiting for you!