Navarre carnival to ward off evil spirits and wake up the land

by Lorraine Williamson
Ward off evil spirits at this carnival

NAVARRE – Many beautiful villages of Navarre in northern Spain, celebrate their carnivals on the Monday and Tuesday following the last Sunday of the month of January. On these dates, you can experience a traditional carnival said to ward off evil spirits.

Locals dressed as Joaldunak characters, witches, bears, and sackcloth ghosts stuffed with straw take to the streets. You will also see giants and bandits with sticks. They chase the witches, ghosts and bears and beat them (in a playful way) with their sticks.

Colourful tradition

There are charcoal burners all around as the streets come to life and are colourfully filled with tradition, magical rituals and dancing.

If you are visiting during such an event, the best thing to do is just join in, learn, and enjoy.

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Joaldunak to ward off evil spirits

Usually, two neighbouring towns join to make the 2-day event. Two such towns are Ituren and Zubieta. On the Monday, the evil spirits are chased from one town, and on the Tuesday, it is the turn of the other town.

The main part of the event begins on Monday, at around noon in the village of Ituren. Villagers dressed as Joaldunak characters with large pointy hats, and with fur coats or waistbands make their way to the village of Zubieta. On the fur, they have large cowbells which make a noise as they walk. This is said to awake the land (promoting a good harvest), protect the cattle, and ward off evil spirits. On the way to the other village, they are met by more Joaldunak. By the time they reach Zubieta, there could be over 50 characters with up to 100 cowbells clanging.

Needless to say, each day, the villagers end up in one of the town squares where the festivities and celebrations continue. There is plenty of dancing, eating and drinking.

Also read: Fiestas, ferias and celebrations in Spain 2023

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