Information about Spain
Traditional Spanish fiestas - Basque Country
Traditional fiestas in Vitoria:
Virgen Blanca Festivities 4th-9th August
Everything starts on August 4th with ‘Celedon’s Descent’
The festivities in Vitoria are in the honour of the Vírgen Blanca.
This festivity is held on 5th August, but the celebrations begin the day before, on the 4th, and end on the 9th. Between the joyful coming down and the sad coming up of the Celedón character, Vitoria-Gasteiz lives intense local festivities to pay tribute to the Virgen Blanca.
From 4th to 9th August, the music of the bands and brass bands, the din of the fireworks and the hubbub of the groups of “blusas” substitute the normal quietness of the city.
The celebration of the festivities goes back to very remote times, a long time before the Virgen Blanca (White Virgin) was declared the patroness of the city.
Until 1957, the festivities started with a rocket shot (the chupinazo) and with the Vísperas (Eves) praying to the Virgen Blanca, followed by a Rosario (procession reciting the Rosary) through the city streets with lighted lanterns representing each of the mysteries.
Although the Virgen Blanca Festivity is unthinkable without the “blusas”, the programme has a place for every kind of person. Thursday the 7th is the day of the youngest ones, as they have their own Celedón Txiki and Neska Txiki. Friday the 8th is time for the older ones; they even have a dance contest for themselves.
The history of the fiestas
In 1957, a group of friends decided to ”do something different” and created the Celedon’s descent, as an analogy to the inhabitants of the close villages, who went to Vitoria to celebrate the festivities.
The first idea was a parachutist, but that was rejected due to technique difficulties. Finally, they created a puppet that descends from the Church-tower to the Square. Despite this, during the first years, the string broke several times and the villager from Zalduendo fell to the floor.
At 6 o’clock in the afternoon, the mayor throws the chupinazo and Celedón starts his descent. Until few years ago, everybody used to light a cigar, even women. Nowadays, customs have changed and, every one uncorks bottles of cava and sprinkles those who are near…
After the descent of the “rag Celedón” from the San Miguel bell tower towards a balcony in the Virgen Blanca Square, the puppet is replaced by a real Celedón, who goes through the overflowing square as best as he can towards the “balcony” of the Church of San Miguel.
From there, he speaks to the people from Vitoria, who endlessly sings this song:"Celedón, ha hecho una casa nueva, con ventana y balcón” The crowd sparks in joy.
It is traditional lighting a cigar and, in the last years, opening a sparkling wine bottle. By the time the Celedón reaches a house balcony in the square (where it will be substituted by the real character, performed by Gorka Ortíz de Urbina) the square is a smoke cloud and a festive sparkling wine sea. Celedón will cover with great difficulty the crowded square until he reaches the row of balconies of San Miguel Church in order to pronounce some words.
The celebration shall begin!
Rosario de la Aurora (Dawn Rosary)
On the 5th at 7 o’clock in the morning, the Rosario de la Aurora starts. This rosary goes through the streets of Vitoria and finishes in an open-air Mass.
Despite the time, it is a well-attended event and many families and night birds go round to see it. As soon as the rosary ends, they begin the day with a traditional breakfast of hot chocolate and fritters in the España Square.
THE LAMP PROCESSION
Illuminated by 247 unique pieces
In the fun of the first night of the festivity, you can get distracted and miss one of the magic moments of the festivity.
For more than a century, the Lamp procession starts every 4th August at 10 in the evening.
The members of a brotherhood carry 247 lamps and twenty coaches that represent the beads of the rosary and its mysteries. The lamps, that obviously are on, conform a unique collection of great value. They have such a great value that during the rest of the year they are showed in the Lamp Museum-House.
The morning following the Lamp Procession, it is time to get up early in the morning, because at 7 o’clock in the morning the Rosario de la Aurora takes place, it is another procession that remembers the religious origin of the celebration.
The Dianas (Reveilles)
Every morning, the fanfares cross the city streets to wake up the sleepiest and to enliven the street atmosphere during all the morning. Almost in every square of the city centre, and in the crowded places, there is no end of cultural and entertaining events for all ages: rural sport, Spanish omelet contest, puppets, theatre for children, popular dances…
Every day at 23:00, there is a fireworks show from the Monte de la Tortilla (Omelet Mountain) or Mendizabala, near the fun fair. On 9th August night, the people from Vitoria go to the Virgen Blanca Square to say goodbye to Celedón, who at 1 o’clock in the morning will ascend to the bell tower again.
During his route, everyone waves his handkerchief saying goodbye to the festive symbol… and thinking that next 4th August is closer.
See you soon in the Basque Country, Spain!
Friendly version HTML