San Sebastian Day was celebrated in style

by Lorraine Williamson
San Sebastian - Jarramplas

San Sebastian was an early Christian who was believed to have been martyred during the persecution of the Christians by the Roman emperor. He is a patron saint of archers and athletes and of those who desire a saintly death. He was also known as a protector from the bubonic plague. His death was on January 20.

There are many celebrations throughout Spain and elsewhere that remember San Sebastian. Here are just a few from Spain.

Tamborrada – San Sebastian

January 20 is San Sebastian Day, and the long-awaited celebrations took place from midnight on January 19 until midnight on January 20.

After a two-year absence due to the corona pandemic, the Plaza de la Constitucion in San Sebastian was vibrating once again with the sound of the drums of the Tamborrada.

The last such celebration took place just a few weeks prior to the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The legend

As with all traditions, the origins can be blurred. In this case, legend has it that in 1720, a baker was collecting water from a fountain during a drought. As he was doing so, he was singing. The local women around him started beating on their water basins as he sang. To his surprise, the water kept on flowing.

This year

This year, over 20,000 adults, and almost 5,000 children took part in the fiesta. Some dressed as soldiers and others dressed as bakers.

When the clock struck midnight on the 19th, and Mayor, Eneko Goia raised the blue and white flag, it signalled the beginning of the 24-hour celebration of San Sebastian Day.

The drumming then began with the members of Gaztelubide ready and lined up along with representatives of other drum outfits. The sounds of the ‘San Sebastián March’ could be heard everywhere.

The fantastic atmosphere and the drumming continued for the 24 hours throughout San Sebastian

During the morning, the Children’s Tamborrada parades were also in full swing. Around fifty children’s companies from various schools in San Sebastián were involved.

At the end of the day, at midnight, the flag was be lowered in the Plaza de la Constitución, and the festivities have now ended until next year.

Jarramplas – Extremadura

As with the Tamborrada tradition in San Sebastian, this Day is celebrated as Jarramplas in the town of Piornal in the heart of Valle del Jerte, Extremadura. 

The legend

One legend surrounding this tradition is that the Jarramplas was a cattle thief. When the villagers found out, they threw vegetables at him until he died. 

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Nowadays, each year at midnight on January 19 the mythical character wears a mask, and a colourful outfit with lots of ribbons and runs through the town as the spectators throw turnips at him.

During the celebration, the pride of the Jarramplas each year is how long he lasts before he gives up and falls to his knees.

However, at this point, the celebrations begin. The end of the fiesta is marked by a general invitation to eat migas, chorizo, cheese, wine etc at the house of the “mayordomo”. This is the person in charge of the organisation and expenses of the event.

This year

 This year, however, there were two such characters. Adolfo Cerro and Juan Antonio Prieto have waited 15 years to become Jarramplas. Furthermore, the waiting list is complete until 2048.

Around 30,000 turnips were thrown by the watching crowds as the Jarramplas ran through the town. At dawn, the Jarramplas kneeled in front of the cross as they beat their drums.

Guillermo Fernandez Vara, president of the Junta de Extremadura, the mayor of Piornal, and Blanca Martin, president of the Assembly of Extremadura were in attendance.

San Sebastian – Mallorca

As one of the biggest celebrations on the island, Mallorca celebrated San Sebastian with a full program of events from January 14 to 29.

This year, weather threatened to put a dampener on the big night on January 19. However, the decision was made to go ahead.

The legend

On this night, as the story goes, San Sebastian saved the city from the plague. When a bone from his arm came to Palma in 1524, it was thought to have brought an end to the plague that had taken over the city. The demons wielding fire through the streets were burning the plague from Palma,

This year

The main festivities began when a fire breathing dragon “Drac de na Coca”, accompanied with a parade of drummers, lit the large bonfire in Plaça Major. Locals also ran through the narrow streets of the old town dressed as demons and setting off fireworks.

There were free concerts, and music in almost every square (plaza) throughout Palma. The crowds set up their own BBQs in the streets and enjoyed the music until the end of the night when there was a massive fireworks display.

The festivities and events continue here until January 29.

Also read: Fiestas, ferias, and celebrations in Spain 2023

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