Virgen del Carmen festival

by Deborah Cater
Vigen del Carmen festival in Spain is one of the most popular for coastal towns

The Día de la Virgen del Carmen is celebrated on July 16th in many coastal towns and villages across Spain.

The Virgen del Carmen is the patroness and protector of mariners and fishermen. For coastal towns and villages, the virgin’s holy day is one of the most important of the year.  

Processions in honour of the much-loved Santa María de Monte Carmelo, as the Virgen Del Carmen is also known, take place after a traditional seafaring mass.

Moving and emotional

Generally, the Día de la Virgen del Carmen traditions involve at least one parade as an effigy of the Virgin is carried through town by mariners to the sea front. Then she is escorted into the water in honour of those who have lost their lives at sea.

After a mass, she is usually placed in a boat, and accompanied by small fishing boats she takes a tour of the harbour or along the shoreline.

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As only Spain knows how to, the parties then commence with live music, food and celebrations into the night. Some towns stretch the festivities out over a few days.

Variations on a theme

Whilst the main elements of the festival are the same across Spain, there are variations in different towns.

In Malaga, in 1981, local scuba divers placed an image of the Virgin on the seabed. Part of the tradition there now involves divers paying their own respects to the submarine patron.

On Tenerife, at Puerto de la Cruz, they release doves as the Virgin takes to the water.

In 2021, many of the festivities are either subject to some restrictions or cancelled. However, where they do take place, it is certain to be a spectacle.

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