Fiestas del Pilar

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Fiestas del Pilar are an annual festival celebrated in the city of Zaragoza (Spain) in honour of the patron saint of the city, the Virgen del Pilar (Virgin Mary of the Pillar). They take place the week of the 12th of October. Usually, the festival starts the weekend before the 12th, and lasts until the following Sunday, so they last about ten days.

In this festival, there are a wide variety of events organized by the City Hall. Moreover, other private companies and organizations also prepare their own shows, contests and other activities. The main events in the festival include:

Religious celebrations[edit]

Solemne misa de Infantes (Solemn Mass of Infants)[edit]

The first mass in the day is celebrated in the Saint Chapel of the Basilica del Pilar, around 4.30 a.m. This mass is really popular, and the chapel is packed with worshippers.

The Offering of Flowers[edit]

This is the high point of the festival, and a great demonstration of the people’s devotion to the Virgin. During the morning and afternoon of the 12th of October, hundreds of thousands of people, dressed in the traditional costume of Aragon or of any other region in Spain, bring flowers to the Virgin, placed in the centre of the Plaza del Pilar. There, an army of volunteers put the flowers in a pyramidal structure, tiling a flower mantle around the Virgin, which remains in the square for the rest of the festival so that all the people in the city can see it. People can participate in the offering individually, or in a group. These groups are organized by schools, companies, villages and other organizations, and they put on a parade around the main streets in the city centre to get to the square. Some evidence of the popularity of the Offering of Flowers in Zaragoza are the great number of groups taking part in each edition (378 in 2005, for instance) and the duration of the parade, which lasts usually over eight hours. The record of participation was accomplished in 2009, when 450000 people took part in it. The tradition of the Offering started in 1952, when a group of representatives of the City Hall of Zaragoza attended the festival of Castellón de la Plana. There, they witnessed a similar celebration, which they decided to import to their home land. The first edition of the Offering of Flowers in Zaragoza was in 1958. Nowadays, in the Virgin’s flower mantle appears the Cross of Lorena, the symbol of the world wide fight against tuberculosis. This cross has been chosen as an offer by the Hospital General Royo Villanova (a local hospital). The origin of this tradition is attached to the first years of the Offering: One of the patients of this hospital was often visited by an important employee of the City Hall, and during one of their conversations they came up with the idea of the hospital offering the Cross of Lorena to the Virgin in the Offering of Flowers. As the patients cannot bring the flowers themselves, the Queen of the festival and her Court of Honour bring the Cross to the mantle on their behalf. The first offering of flowers by the hospital was in 1960.

Misa Pontifical (Pontifical Mass)[edit]

After the Offering of Flowers, a mass is celebrated in the Basilica del Pilar at 12 p.m., followed by a parade.

The Offering of Fruits[edit]

In the morning of the 13th, another parade takes place with a route similar to that of the Offering of Flowers, in which people bring to the Virgin a variety of fruits, mainly from the land of Aragon, but also from other autonomous communities, since most regions have a representative house in Zaragoza. The Offering of Fruits is earlier than the Offering of Flowers, as its first edition took place in 1949.

Rosario de Cristal (Rosary of Glass)[edit]

The parade of the Rosario de Cristal is unique in the world, and it combines religiosity and art. It consists of 29 parade floats made of glass (usually known as “faroles”) and illuminated from the inside. Fifteen of them represent the mysteries of the rosary, while the others represent different topics, as the Basilica del Pilar, the Sagrada Familia or the Hispanidad. There are also lots of lampposts and standards, which are also made of glass. The floats were carried on people’s shoulders until 1926 and it wasn’t until 1940 that electricity was used to illuminate them. The parade starts in the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, where it is kept during the year, the 13th at sunset, and it follows a route around the main streets in the city centre. Its origin dates from 1889. Most of the parade floats were designed by the local architect Ricardo Magdalena, who also built the Paraninfo of the University of Zaragoza in the 19th century.

Other celebrations[edit]

Pregón (Opening speech)[edit]

The pregon is the opening speech of the festival. It is read the Saturday before the 12th of October from the balcony in the City Hall. Every year a different person, usually well-known or related to the region of Aragon, is in charge of reading the speech. In the last five years, the readers (called “pregoneros”) have been:

  • 2010 - Álvaro Arbeloa (Football player)
  • 2009 - José Antonio Labordeta (Politician, singer and writer)
  • 2008 - Guillermo Herrera (Volunteer at the Expo Zaragoza 2008)
  • 2007 - Lita Claver "la Maña" (Artist of vaudeville)
  • 2006 – Amaral (Music group)

Comparsa de gigantes y cabezudos (Crew of giants and macrocephalics)[edit]

The gigantes and cabezudos are beyond the shadow of a doubt one of the most beloved traditions for the people of Zaragoza. They are people dressed in costumes that make them look big-headed, in the case of “cabezudos”, or like giants, in the case of “gigantes”. They pour out into the street from different spots in the city every day of the festival, so as to cover all the areas. There are nine “cabezudos”, all of them with different shapes and names. These characters are well known by everyone (“el Morico”, “el Boticario”, “el Robaculeros”, “el Torero”, “el Tuerto”, “el Forano”, “la Forana”, “el Verrugón” and “la Pilara”) and each of them has its own song. They are teased by the children and teens, and they answer to this provocation by chasing them along the streets and hitting them gently with whipcords. The gigantes, on the other hand, are the serious part of the show, and they entertain the people with their elegant dances in pairs. The crew comes from the Middle Ages, although the current ones were designed in 1849 by the sculptor Félix Oroz., and recovered again recently after a period when they were modified.

General Fair of Zaragoza[edit]

This fair takes place in the exhibition site of Zaragoza. It’s a fair opened for everyone where a wide variety of products are exposed. It is organized as a series of pavilions dedicated to different types of products, such as Food, Furniture, Cars and Science. There are also some ludic activities designed to entertain the visitors.

Beer Fair[edit]

The Beer Fair, known as “Oktoberfest” takes place in the Theme Park of Zaragoza, under a big awning. Here, you can enjoy typical German products and large amounts of imported beer. The waitresses are dressed in German costumes and there’s a traditional Germanic orchestra playing. This fair is visited by about three thousand people a day.

Bullfighting Fair of El Pilar[edit]

In the bullfighting ring of Zaragoza takes place this fair, which brings to the city the best bullfighters. Not only are there bullfights, but people can also attend various popular events, contests and even comic shows. This fair ends the Spanish bullfighting season. Another special feature of this bullfighting fair is the Teflon piece of cloth that covers the grades and the arena, if necessary.

Vaquillas[edit]

Every morning during the festival, young cows are released in the bullfighting ring so that young people, who have stayed up all night, can play amateur bullfighting with them. There are usually popular orchestras from the peñas singing and playing there.

Activities for Children[edit]

Most parks organize activities and shows for young children, such as puppet shows or short theatre plays. Parque Delicias and Parque Jose Antonio Labordeta are well known for their enjoyable activities.

Funfair[edit]

The funfair is held in the Fair Enclosure of Valdespartera. Here you can find a wide variety of roller coasters, ability tests, raffles and so on.

Performances[edit]

These days, many stages are installed all over the city where all sorts of music groups give concerts.Some of these concerts are organized by the City Hall, and are therefore free, whereas the rest of them are organized for other organizations, as for example Interpeñas, so you have to pay for your ticket. It is also common for the circus to visit the city in the festival.

Some of the most frequent bands which play during the Fiestas are: Ska-P, La Fuga, El Canto del Loco, Amaral, Rapsusklei, Violadores del Verso and other well-known Spanish bands. People can enjoy music of many different genres: going from pop to rock, passing through rap and even classical music, entertainment is guaranteed.

Fin de fiesta[edit]

The festival ends usually with an outdoors concert in Paseo de la Independencia and a firework show by the river Ebro’s bank.