Ever since we arrived here in Spain, everyone has been talking about La Feria. How much fun it would be, about getting outfits ready, about which towns had the best one… Feria, feria, feria! Of course I was immediately wondering what it was all about, and especially if it was being over-hyped.Well, at long last, it’s Feria Season– and last week we got the chance to go. There is so much to talk about and show, that this will have to be just one of several posts I’ll write about La Feria. Today I’ll share a few pictures and talk about what it is. Then in later posts, we can take a closer look at the gorgeous costumes, the horse riding, the food, etc.
What is Feria?
As you may have guessed, the word feria is the cousin of our word fair, and while there are various ferias throughout Spain (as there are all sorts of festivals and fairs elsewhere in the world) we are talking here about the spring fairs celebrated in Andalucia, originally La Feria de Abril, which began in Sevilla in the mid-1800’s and was originally a livestock fair.
In the following years, La Feria became an annual event, the rich traditions and culture of Sevilla that are celebrated during the feria have made it one of the most popular festivals around the world. To me, feria showcases all that I think of as quintessential Spanish culture– flamenco dresses and dancing, horse riding, food and drink, people just milling around and eating and drinking and enjoying talking with friends. It’s a party– a huge party that goes on for a week in each city, and for months (when strung together from town to town) all over Andalucia.
The first feria of the year starts in Sevilla, about two weeks after Semana Santa (Holy Week). The party starts at midnight on a Monday and goes through the night of the following Sunday. The celebrations rock through the entire week, night and day. Many people go every single day. (I honestly cannot imagine!) Smaller towns have shorter feria durations. Ours went from Wednesday night until the following Monday– not a full week, but pretty close! It’s possible to party from April well into June, if you are willing to travel a bit, to various towns and cities in the region.
So, what do people do at La Feria?
People eat, drink, dance, ride horses, watch each other do these things, and then mill around the feria grounds. Some Spanish friends went with us on the first night, and when I asked this question (What do people do here?) he said that you basically go from group to group of friends, drinking and having a bite to eat, stopping for a little dance– all day and/or all night!Much of the action takes place inside tents that are set up all over the fair grounds, called casetas. Casetas create a little festive neighborhood at the feria– they offer shade (very important, as it’s already hot here!), food and drink, and bathrooms. Some are more plain, while others are decorated beautifully. In Sevilla, the casetas are privately owned, but in El Puerto de Santa Maria and other cities, they are more like restaurants, where anyone can go in and order food and drinks.Some have stages where people can get up and dance sevillanas, a traditional flamenco style of dancing. Almost everyone here knows how to dance, and it’s a lot of fun to watch– we’ll have to take lessons in time to dance next year!
Here’s a little video clip of the sevillanas we saw:
So, people stay until all hours, just generally enjoying themselves. When it gets dark, the lights are really beautiful– here’s the gate to ours in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Apparently, it stays open until about 7 a.m., when people go home and sleep it off and then head back again for more fun– it reopens around 1:30 p.m. We went twice, and the experience during the day was different from night time, both lots of fun! I’ll finish up here today, but stay tuned for more posts and pictures– about food, costumes, and horses at La Feria! We’re also headed to Jerez’ feria this weekend, so I look forward to learning, seeing, and enjoying even more feria fun there!