Fiestas, Siestas...

A yearly diary of fiestas with information about each one and how it is celebrated locally in Tossa de Mar and in Spain in general

1 January – New Years Day – el día de año nuevo
El día de año nuevo, the first of January, is New Years Day and is a public holiday in Spain.

5 – 6 January – The Three Kings - Los Reyes Magos
The most important event of the Spanish Christmas season, is el día de Los Reyes Magos – the day of the Three Kings. This takes place over the 5 and 6 of January and is the time most looked forward to by children in Spain, as it’s the day they get their presents!

See the Christmas section below for full details of this celebration.

20 January - El Peregrino de Tossa
This pilgrimage dates from the 15th Century plague in Tossa, when the inhabitants promised San Sebastian that they would send a pilgrim each year to the nearest chapel of the saint, which that of Santa Coloma de Farners, some 40km away.

February – Carnival
The Carnival, or Carnaval, takes place over the three days before Ash Wednesday. It has pagan roots and was even banned under Franco due to the rowdiness of the celebrations! It is now celebrated all over Spain.

In Tossa, the celebrations last around nine days and include children’s shows, balls and ‘Passacaglia’ – a type of baroque-style music and various other celebrations.

February to March/April - Lent (Cuaresma)
The period of 40 days (not including Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday.

A fast of 36 days was introduced in the 4th century but lengthened to 40 in the early 7th century to correspond to Jesus' fast in the wilderness. No meat, eggs or dairy produce could be eaten.

March/April - Palm Sunday (Domingo de ramos)
This celebration commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is the start of Holy Week.

In Tossa there is a procession to mark the day, and Sardana dancing later on.

March/April - Holy Week (Semana Santa)
This is the last week in Lent and leads up to Easter Sunday. The dates vary from year to year between 22 March and 25 April. The main days of celebration are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Spain is famous for its Holy Week processions. Some of the more elaborate ones involve huge, ornamented floats bearing images of Christ or the Virgin Mary. These are often carried on the shoulders of men escorted by hundreds of penitents wearing the familiar hooded costumes, in processions that can last many hours.

23 April – Saint George – Sant Jordi
Perhaps one of Catalonia’s most important fiestas is that of Sant Jordi – Saint George – the patron saint of Catalonia. On this day, couples exchange books and roses, and in Barcelona you’ll find Las Ramblas lined with stall upon stall of books. It is the equivalent of the UK Valentines Day.

May / June - Corpus Christi
Download the Corpus Christi photo movie

On this important date in the religious calendar, which always falls nine weeks after Maundy Thursday, the people of Tossa celebrate with a wonderful display of honour for the ‘body of Christ’.

From just after lunchtime, the townspeople get on their hands and knees and get to work chalking out drawings on the streets throughout the Vila Nova.

They then take buckets and boxes of flower petals, leaves, soil and sand, and start to fill their stencils with colour. This is truly an amazing sight to watch, and when finished, really is something very special. The streets are carpeted in the most amazing designs, all made mosaic-style with the leaves, petals and soil. The designs vary from year to year and most include religious images, but there are also cartoon characters, footprints, flowers and lots more. As you wander through the warren of streets, each time you turn a corner, you’ll see another ‘flower mat’ laid out before you.

As well as the flower mats, altars are also set up at various intervals along the way. The altars are decorated with flowers and religious statues.

Now, all this hard work is for a reason. The streets have been carpeted with these beautiful flowers in readiness for a holy procession, which starts from the Parochial Church of San Vicente after a mass, which is attended by a huge congregation, and also involves the celebration of the First Holy Communion of a number of young boys and girls.

The doors of the church open wide at around 7pm and out troop the priest and his group, followed by the girls in their gorgeous little white dresses and the boys in their waistcoats and bow-ties. A band playing a solemn march joins the procession.

The atmosphere is spine-tingling and even those who are not religious could not fail to feel the effect of the energy there at that time. The profound religious beliefs of the people are so apparent during this procession, the passion they feel for their religion is electric.

The procession makes its way through the streets of the Vila Nova and the priest stops to pray at each altar along the way. As the priest and his party go, they trample through the flower mats that had been so carefully laid a few hours before.

If you are in Tossa during this time, you simply must not miss the procession and the flower mats it’s a truly wonderful experience.

Later in the evening the celebrations continue with Sardana dancing in the Church Square, accompanied by an orchestra playing local music.

May/June – The Fisherman’s Day
A day of celebration for the fishermen of Tossa. Join them for breakfast on the beach! As fishing nets bulging with sardines are hauled in from the sea, tables are set up on the beach, and bread is prepared with olive oil and tomato. Crowds of people gather as the breakfast of fresh sardines is shared.

May/June – Meeting of the Lateen Sail Boats

This meeting of boats takes place after the Fisherman’s Breakfast. Boats with a ‘Lateen’ sail come together in the bay of Tossa.

A lateen (from the Latin) is a triangular sail mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a ‘fore-and-aft’ direction.

The lateen rig, commonly used on sail-boats in the Mediterranean, is probably of Arab origin and is believed to have been in use for at least 2,000 years. In the late Middle Ages, merchants were able to sail out of the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic Ocean only because of the maneuverability this sail gave the boats. And how this changed history!

June - Homage to the elderly

This celebration honours the older generation of Tossa and takes place around mid-June. After Mass at midday, there is Sardana dancing, accompanied by an orchestra, at 1pm and again at 5.30pm. Later in the Plaza de España there is dancing, with live music.

June – The Feast of Saint Anthony – ‘the bricklayer and the carnation’

This celebration takes place around mid-June and involves all the tradesmen of Tossa de Mar. From midday, they decorate their vehicles – trucks, trailers, whatever they have – with plants and flowers, and drive through the streets of Tossa, from bar to bar, handing carnations to the ladies and drinking from the traditional parró – the long-spouted drinking vessel – filled with wine, cava, or whatever the barman decides to fill it with!

Later in the evening the festivities continue in Carrer Sant Antoni (Saint Anthony Street) with dancing, live music and sangria ladled from a wooden barrel.

23-24 June - Sant Joan / San Juan / Saint John

This is a big celebration in Tossa de Mar. It marks the day of St John the Baptist and falls on Midsummer Day (not to be confused with midsummer on 21 June).

It’s on Midsummer’s Eve that most of the celebrations take place. On the night of 23 June, you’ll be treated to ‘cava and coca’, with most of the bars, restaurants and hotels offering this to patrons free of charge. Coca is a type of cake, usually quite dry, although some variations contain custard filling. The cake is covered in sugar and adorned with even sweeter, brightly coloured decorations. As it can be quite dry, it is usually eaten with a ‘copa de cava’ – a glass of cava.

A great bonfire on the main beach punctuates the evening, and ad-lib firework displays go on into the early hours of the morning!

Sant Pere, Festa Major/San Pedro, Fiesta Mayor/
Saint Peter, Main Festival

The main festival recalls the feast day of the patron saint of each locality, while others relate to particular arts and crafts, farming and seafaring.

The main festival in Tossa de Mar is that of Saint Peter the fisherman. The feast day is on 29 June, but celebrations start one day before and carry on for a number of days afterwards. There is a fair, a spectacular fireworks display on the main beach, balls, concerts, children’s shows, Sardana dancing and much merriment!

Legend has it that the day after the festivities, there is more salt in the sea around Tossa as a thank you from Saint Peter for honouring his name. The saltier the water, the more fish there will be….good news for the fishermen!

15 August - Assumption Day (La Asunción, or Virgen de Agosto)
A Roman Catholic feast and a national holiday. It celebrates the death of the Virgin Mary and the Assumption of her body into heaven where it is reunited with her soul. A belief in the Assumption can be traced back to the 6th century but there is nothing in the Bible about it.

11 September – Catalan National Day
This is a national holiday in Catalonia and marks the day in 1714 when Catalonia lost it's independence after the fall of Barcelona to Felipe V.

There are various official and political ceremonies throughout the region and you will see Catalan flags hanging everywhere.

In Tossa, a stage is set in the Paseo del Mar and visitors can enjoy musical performances and of course, experience the dance of the Sardana.

23-24 September – International Tourism Day
The feast during which tourists are honoured for the economical growth in Spain that is attributed to the tourism industry.

In Tossa, the mayor honours all those tourists who have been visiting the village for over 25 years, and awards the ‘Tourist of the Year’ a prize.

12 October - Feast of the Hispanic Peoples – Dia de la Hispanidad
This is a national holiday in Spain and celebrates the return of Christopher Columbus to Barcelona after he discovered America.

1 November is the feast of All Saints, a national public holiday in Spain.

It is also known as 'All Hallows' or 'Hallowmas'. Hence 'Halloween' - the Eve of All Hallows on 31 October. So to explain the tradition of ghosts and ghouls on this night....

All Saints is probably the spookiest of all religious celebrations. On this day, it is said that all the dead come back to re-visit the living.

To make their passage back from the grave a little more pleasant, all over Spain, cemeteries are decorated. By tradition, families visit the graves of their departed loved ones on this day.

The feast is also associated with eating roast chestnuts and 'panellets' - a small cake, apparently linked from the days when food and drink were placed in the graves with the departed.

The next day, 2 November, is All Souls Day.

8 December - Immaculate Conception
This is a national holiday. Pope Pius IX broadcast the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a code of belief in 1854, although there is nothing in the Bible about it.

Christmas in Tossa
Although Tossa is very quiet during the winter months, it does come to life during the Christmas season when there are lots of events taking place. You will find a few of the hotels, bars and restaurants do open especially for the Christmas season. If you are planning on spending Christmas in Tossa, the following hotels and hostels should be open at least on some of the days of the holiday, but do check beforehand: The Park, Novopark, Mar Menuda, Corisco, Tonet, Turissa, Hostel Can Lluna and Hostel Carmen.

Bar Europa is usually open and they arrange special events for the children, like a visit from ‘Santa’.

The Christmas Fair takes place over four days in early December and offers the chance to warm up with some hot freshly prepared soup. There are live Nativity scenes acted out in the Vila Vella for two hours over three evenings and lots of activities (and free hot chocolate!) for the children.

A major event is the Competition of Christmas Flower Arrangements where everyone is invited to take part and prepare an arrangement of artificial or natural flowers with a Christmas theme. After the prize giving at the House of Culture, the arrangements are all put on display for next three days for all to see.

Lots of sports competitions and tournaments take place in the Sports Pavilion to help everyone combat all the delicious Christmas fayre they’ll be eating and throughout December there are many musical concerts.

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is followed by carol singing in the Parish Church and on New Years Eve there is a big party and dancing until dawn with live music in a marquee.

The highlight of the Christmas season is the Cavalcade of the Three Kings on 5 January, which parades through the streets of Tossa culminating at the Church Square.

For full details of Spanish Christmas traditions, see the information below.

For a full list of Christmas and New Year events taking place in Tossa, please see the Events Diaries for December and January.

Christmas in Spain
The Christmas season in Spain is religiously centred. The Spanish see Christmas Day as a very holy day, and from Christmas Eve, a time for family, feasting and spending time together in the home. Unlike other countries, you won’t find shops, bars and restaurants open on the night of Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day.

During Advent, that is the four weeks leading up to Christmas, individual homes, villages and towns are decorated with Christmas trees (árboles de Navidad), wreaths (coronas de Navidad), tinsel (espumillón), holly (acebo), mistletoe (muérdago) and poinsettias (flores de Navidad) as well as innovative street lighting to rival any Oxford Street display.

Nativity Scenes
Probably the most popular adornment, in-keeping with the religious tone of the season is the ‘belén’ – the nativity scene. Some towns construct very ornate scenes, and many don’t just stop at ‘Jesus in the manger’, with some depicting longer portions of the Christmas story, and in some places they don’t just use figurines – they use real actors! Some of these are a very popular tourist attraction. If you are lucky enough to see one, don’t be surprised if the traditional manger-side animals are joined by Spain’s national symbol – the bull!

21 December - Winter Solstice and Hogueras (Bonfires)
The Spanish enjoy a long Christmas period, with the first major celebration taking place on 21 December, the winter solstice and shortest day of the year. Hogueras – meaning ‘bonfires’ - is a tradition older than Christmas itself and marks the beginning of winter. As well as bonfires being lit all over Spain, in some towns (particularly Jaén and Granada in Andalucia), you will see people jumping over fires, which is an act believed to protect against illness.

22 December – El Gordo – the fat one – Lottery that is!
Also during December many Spanish people take part in El Gordo, the most famous lottery draw in the world with massive cash prizes (El Gordo literally means ‘the fat one’). The Christmas Draw is on 22 December and the prizes total 2023 million Euros! That’s over £1.3billion! Find out more on

24 December – Christmas Eve – La Nochebuena
Christmas Eve – Nochebuena (meaning ‘good night’) – on 24 December sees families come together for a special meal late at night. This will usually consist of a first course of seafood, followed by many different types of meat, not just turkey although this is popular, especially stuffed with truffles (Pavo Trufado de Navidad) or chestnuts (Pavo Relleno con Castañas) and followed by Christmas Yule Log (Tronco de Navidad) and the delicious Christmas sweets (Ducles de Navidad) which can be nougat or marzipan.
After the meal, the family will congregate around the Christmas tree and sing carols (villancicos) including the popular Catalan ‘Fum, Fum, Fum.’ At midnight, bells ring out throughout Spain to call the families to ‘La Misa del Gallo’ – literally, ‘the Rooster’s Mass’, so called because it is said the only time a rooster crowed at midnight was on the day that Jesus was born. Christmas Eve has no place for sleeping! There is an old Spanish saying:

Esta noche es Nochebuena, y no es noche de dormir
Tonight is the good night, not a night for sleeping

25 December – Christmas Day - El Día de Navidad
Christmas Day (El Día de Navidad), unlike other countries, is not a day for exchanging gifts. Father Christmas (or Papa Noel) is known in Spain, but is not very popular, so Spanish children cannot be bribed with the ‘if you’re not good Santa won’t bring you any presents this year’ line. There is a time for gift giving, but it isn’t Christmas Day.

26 December – Boxing Day/St Stepehen’s Day - Día del Boxeo/ Día de San Esteban
Boxing Day (Día del Boxeo) is better known as the Feast of Saint Stephen (San Esteban) and is a public holiday in Spain.

28 December - the Day of the Innocents - el día de los Santos Inocentes
28 December is ‘el día de los Santos Inocentes’, the Day of the Innocents. This is the Spanish version of April Fools Day and marks the day when King Herod had all the innocent newborn sons slaughtered hoping that one of them would be Jesus who he feared as a rival. The day sees people involving themselves in practical jokes and crying ‘Inocente, inocente!’ (‘Innocent, innocent!’) when they are caught. Like in the UK, the newspapers are in on the tomfoolery as well.

31 December - New Years Eve – Nochevieja
31 December is of course New Years Eve – known as Nochevieja or ‘old night’ in Spain. The equivalent of the UK’s Trafalgar Square convergence is Madrid’s Puerta del Sol where tens of thousands of people assemble to celebrate seeing the New Year in. But wherever people are in Spain, they will be seeing in the New Year in the traditional way – with the ‘eating of the grapes’ (tomar las uvas). Everyone gathered around the clock has twelve grapes, and as each chime of midnight rings out, so they have to eat one grape. A good insider tip is to take the skins off the grapes first to help you eat them so quickly!

This tradition dates back to fairly recently – the beginning of the 20th century – and supposedly came about after a bizarrely large crop of grapes was harvested in Spain one unusually warm winter. Not knowing what to do with the unwanted crop, the grape growers came up with the idea of every person in Spain eating twelve grapes at midnight to see in the New Year.

1 January – New Years Day – el día de año nuevo
El día de año nuevo, the first of January, is New Years Day and is a public holiday in Spain.

5 – 6 January – The Three Kings - Los Reyes Magos
The most important event of the Spanish Christmas season, is el día de Los Reyes Magos – the day of the Three Kings. This takes place over the 5 and 6 of January and is the time most looked forward to by children in Spain, as it’s the day they get their presents!

Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior were the three kings who followed the Star of David until they reached the lowly manger in Bethlehem twelve days after Jesus was born. As everyone knows, they brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. So this is why in Spain, the gift giving is celebrated on this day. As children in other countries become excited at the thought of Father Christmas trundling down the chimney with a sack full of toys, so Spanish children look forward to the arrival of the Three Kings during the night, who arrive on their donkeys and leave gifts for all the niños.

In true Spanish fiesta style, this event is celebrated in carnival fashion with  ‘La Cabalgata’, the cavalcade on the 5th of January. The ‘three kings’ make a spectacular entrance into the town or village on brightly adorned floats, throwing sweets to rows and rows of bright-eyed children. In some coastal towns they arrive by boat. After the parade the children return home and before bedtime, they fill their shoes with carrots and straw and put them by the window. This ritual is similar to the ‘glass of milk and cookies by the fireplace for Santa’, but the Spanish children are leaving food for the kings’ donkeys.

The next morning, January 6, sees the excited children up early to open the presents left by ‘the Three Kings’, and is the day when the entire family get together for a meal and to exchange gifts. Their meal will include a ‘Rosca de Reyes’, which is a large fruitcake with coins and other surprises hidden inside.

If you are planning on spending Christmas in Spain, try and arrange it so you can be there for the celebration of the Three Kings on 5 and 6 January as this really is one of the best things to see.

And don’t forget to bring home some of those wonderful Spanish delights of the Christmas season – like Turrón – known to us as nougat - this comes in a variety of flavours, including almond, peanut and hazelnut. Mantecados and Polvorones are also popular traditional Christmas sweets made with almonds.

¡Feliz Navidad y un Prospero Año Nuevo!

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