Fiestas del Pilar, Zaragoza, Spain
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – you don’t get to experience the real flavor of a city unless you’re hanging out with the locals. Lucky for me, I have family and friends all over the globe! A few years ago, my parents, sister, and I visited my aunt, cousins, and nieces in Spain. Though I’ve been to Spain a handful of times over the years (the very first time was I was just four years old, visiting my aunt and uncle!), this was my first trip to the city of Zaragoza.
Located in the Aragon region of Spain, and situated strategically between Madrid, Bilbao, and Barcelona, Zaragoza has a rich historical and political history. Tourists often overlook this city, in favor of its more glamorous neighbors, but to skip Zaragoza is a huge mistake! The city has a natural charm and warmth that is indicative of the real Espana!
Of course, our main reason for visiting was to spend quality time with our family. We had a blast!
As it happened, we arrived right in time for Zaragoza’s biggest event of the year: the Fiestas del Pilar. This festival takes place during the week of October 12th, and honors the patron saint of the city, the Virgen del Pilar (Virgin Mary of the Pillar). The festivities include nine days of religious events, parades, and carnivals. One of the most significant activities is the Ofrenda de Flores (offering of flowers), where mountains of flowers are formed into a “cloak” for an effigy of Virgin Mary, as shown below.
During the festivities, you’ll notice a lot of these scarves, the traditional accessory worn during festival time. My cousin Luxman generously hooked us up with these! Personally, I think it made for quite the fashion statement, even back home!
People dressed in traditional attire, specific to the Aragon region, participate in a lengthy parade (which often lasts half a day!).
As I mentioned earlier, there’s also a lot of fun and merriment to be had during this time. And Spaniards know how to party! It must be in the blood. We stayed out till all hours of the night – and there were lots of children in attendance as well. They start them early in Spain!
One of the most interesting, and most popular, carnival games was Bingo de Jamon (ham). Now, there were crowds of people participating, and they seemed pretty serious about it. We happened to walk up right before the numbers were to be called, so one of my cousins quickly bought a “round” of entries and handed them out to us. In a funny turn of events, my sister ended up winning! Her prize? A giant jamon, of course! With a huge baguette and bottle of wine. Maybe you had to be there, but there was just something incredibly comical about my sister swooping in at the last minute, and winning the coveted prize, amongst a sea of locals. My sister has a long history of randomly winning things, so we shouldn’t have been surprised by her luck! (And in case you’re wondering, the jamon was muy delicioso!)
There were other treats for those of us who didn’t win! Like a giant cotton candy…
This trip will always have a special place in my heart, as it’s one of the few trips I’ve taken with my immediate family as an adult, and it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our family in Spain. Memories of a lifetime!