Spanish Holidays


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Spanish Holidays

It’s not uncommon to find shops and businesses closed for the entire month (probably 70%) and many city dwellers travel to the country to stay with family and friends.

Posted by Sammie

When Do You Get Time Off In Spain? A Great Guide to Spain’s National and Regional Holidays - information about both regional and national holidays throughout the country, focused on how Spain celebrates and explaining the significance of some of Spain's prominent holidays.

Preface: This article is about National and Bank Holidays in Spain and when they fall each year. It’s not about finding holidays in Spain for vacation. For more information about holiday vacations in Spain try EuroAdventures Spain (highly recommended). It’s a great idea as an expat living in Spain, to know a little bit about some of Spain’s holidays and important celebrations. Not only so you’ll know when you can plan your vacations and time off work but Spain’s Holidays are a time when you’ll experience a genuine taste of the country’s culture and history. Spain is a country filled with life and tradition and the more you know about Spain’s holidays the more connected you’ll feel to their customs and the better prepared you’ll be to celebrate in ‘Spanish style’.

National holidays in Spain are a time when the entire country comes together and gets involved in the festivities, so for the most part everything completely shuts down. This includes shops and banks as well as most cafes and bars. Holidays in Spain are taken on the exact day they fall whether that be midweek or weekend. The holiday is not moved to the Monday or Friday to create three day weekends as is often done in other countries. This means that a large percentage of people take days off, a “puente” (bridge), to create four or five day long weekends. For example, if a holiday falls on Tuesday everyone also takes Monday off, “bridging” their holidays so to speak. During puentes public transport is usually extremely busy and overpriced and if possible it’s recommended not to travel during these days.

Bank holidays in Spain are one of two types. They’re either regional holidays or national holidays. When there is a regional holiday it doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of Spain is on vacation, as well, each particular province has its own public holidays in conjunction with the national ones. 

A Few Key Points To Note During Public Holidays in Spain:

  • All public offices close
  • All shops and 90% of commercial centers close
  • 80% of grocery stores are closed (often the smaller urban ones remain open)
  • About 60% of bars and restaurants are open as normal
  • Reduced public transport services
  • Museums remain open and sometimes offer free entrance for locals
  • Extended opening hours at many attractions
  • Reduced medical and emergency services
  • There is the possibility of increased taxi fares and limited availability

General Holidays For Spain:

August Vacation
August is the time of year when most Spanish people take time off work. It’s not uncommon to find shops and businesses closed for the entire month (probably 70%) and many city dwellers travel to the country to stay with family and friends. August is also the month when most towns and villages have their ferias and fiestas.

In Spain, Sundays are a bad day to accomplish anything. Different autonomous communities have separate laws regarding shopping on Sunday, for example in Madrid the shops are open on the first Sunday of the month and closed the rest of the time. Most regions are more relaxed regarding Sundays opening in December for Christmas and Three Kings holiday shopping.

The short-list of National Holidays In Spain:

  • January 1st - New Year’s day
  • January 6th - Epiphany/Three Kings Day
  • April 6th - Good Friday (usually the Thursday prior is a holiday as well, but not the Monday)
  • May 1st -Labor day
  • August 15th –Feast of the Assumption (Asunción de la Virgen)
  • October 12th—Spanish National Holiday (Día de la Hispanidad)
  • November 1st - All Saints Day
  • December 6th - Constitution Day
  • December 8th - Inmaculada Concepción
  • December 25th -Christmas Day
The secret is that a family member effects the pooping action from the other side of the log while the kids work themselves up into a frenzy...

Spain’s National And Regional Holidays In-depth

(Regional Bank Holidays pertain mostly to Madrid)

  • January 1-New Years (Ano Nuevo –National Holiday) New Years Eve in Spain is a wonderful party and there is usually a large crowd of people celebrating and dancing in the town hall square. (depending on which city you’re in). The Spanish ‘good luck’ tradition on New Years is to eat a grape every time the clock strikes during midnight. Make sure to buy your grapes ahead of time as supermarkets tend to run out before the 31st. It’s easiest to buy the little tin cans of grapes for easy portability along with a bottle of cava for your friends’ fiesta. Note: In my experience and those of my friends, is that New Years is actually rather understated compared to other western countries like England and America etc) Fireworks aren’t done except a few private ones and it can be a bit disappointing. AKA: great time to take a visit home!
  • January 6 -Epiphany (Epifania –National Holiday) Every year the Three Kings Parade is held on the eve of January 5th and this usually consists of three wise men on horses or camels parading amongst the crowd. This holiday’s evening is also known as the 12th night or Epifania Del Señor (in Spanish) or Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men, Three Kings or Three Magicians). The significance of this holiday is that the tale of the birth of Jesus says that three wise men (Melchior, Casper and Balthazar) took gifts to Jesus. In celebration of this event the Spanish traditionally give and receive presents, just like Santa brings presents on Christmas Eve. The Three Wise Men deliver presents to all the children throughout Spain on the night of the 5th and the children tend to leave food and drink for the Three Kings and their camels. On the 6th of January the children open their presents and eat the sweets that the three wise men have left. This greatly resembles the 24th and 25th of December which is why the British refer to this fiesta as ‘the Spanish Christmas’. This holiday is one of the most important days in the Spanish calendar.
    Editor’s Note: In Catalunya they have what’s called the “Caca Tio”. Caca Tio is a a log propped up on one end with a face and a Santa hat. A blanket is draped over the Caca Tio’s body and the kids hit the Caca Tio with a stick till the Caca Tio kinda poops out a gift (hence “caca”). The secret is that a family member effects the pooping action from the other side of the log while the kids work themselves up into a frenzy with the stick bashing and singing.
    For more Information about Caca Tio check this out
  • March 20-St Joseph’s Fathers Day (San José Dia Del Padre-National Holiday) Father’s day was originally celebrated on the 19th of March but has been moved to the 20th. It falls on St. Joseph’s day since the Catholic Church holds a significant influence on its culture. Celebrations for Father’s day depend on the city you’re in and in some parts of Spain, like Valencia, there’s a grand celebration on this day called “Las Fallas.” Las Fallas is undoubtedly one of the most unique and crazy festivals in Spain. Las Fallas literally means “the fires” in Valencian and the focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots (huge cardboard, wood and plaster statues) that are placed at over 350 key intersections and parks around the city. Valencia, usually a quiet city with a population of half a million, turns into a town of over three million flame-loving revelers during Las Fallas.
  • April 6-Easter Thursday (Madrid and some other cities) and Easter Friday (Viernes Santo y Dia de Pascua –National Holiday) With the arrival of spring comes Easter week, one of Spain’s most authentic and deep-rooted celebrations. Easter commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ and is a celebration with centuries of history and tradition. During Easter the streets in the vast majority of Spain’s cities, towns and villages become the stage for religious fervour and devotion in commemorating Christ’s death.
  • May 1-Labour Day (Fiesta del Trabajo- National Holiday) Labour day is a day off given in recognition of the worker. There are often big protests planned in the city centre on this day. The anarchists use this day to make their voices heard across the nation and sometimes blow stuff up and vandalize big corporate buildings and symbols. Watch out Starbucks (good thing for the employees that it’s a holiday).
  • May 2 –Community Day (Fiesta de la Communidad-Bank Holiday-Madrid) Each autonomous community in Spain celebrates one “Community Day”. Madrid celebrates the creation of the Madrid Region on May 2nd and various street performances and special events take place all over the city
  • May 15-San Isidro (Regional-Madrid Bank Holiday Only) The most popular of the many Madrid holidays is San Isidro, the Patron saint of both Madrid and also of agriculture. San Isidro is the patron saint of the peasants and to celebrate on this day, the people of Madrid actively participate in a pilgrimage to San Isidro’s meadow to drink the holy water from his fountain in his hermitage’s patio. Many people dress as chulapo or chulapa (Madrid’s national dress) and have picnics all over the country side.
  • August 15-Feast of the Assumption (La Asuncion-National Holiday) Feast of the Assumption is probably the biggest and most well known public holiday and is better known as the Virgen de la Paloma, which has been celebrated since the 18th century. The holiday starts on August 11th and culminates on the 15th with the procession of a picture of the Virgin through the streets.
  • October 12-Spain’s National Day (Día de la Hispanidad-National Holiday) Spain’s National Holiday, otherwise known as Hispanic Day or Fiesta Nacional de España or Día de la Hispanidad (in Spanish) is Spain’s national day held annually on October 12th. This national holiday commemorates the exact date when Christopher Columbus first set a foot in the Americas and there is usually a huge parade in the capital city and plenty of celebrations that take place throughout the rest of the country.
  • November 1-All Saints Day (Todos los Santos- National Holiday) The festival of All Saints, also known as All Saints’ Day, is a feast celebrated in honour of all the Saints. All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs who are either known or unknown. Among the eastern orthodox and eastern Catholics, All Saints Sunday follows an earlier tradition kept by the whole church of keeping the feast on the first Sunday after Pentecost and as such marks the close of the Easter season.
  • November 9-Almudena (Bank Holiday Madrid Only) The Virgin Almudena, is in reality the virgin Mary however the Spanish name her differently in each region. Many Madrileños (citizens of Madrid) will eat in restaurants for either lunch or dinner on this day.
  • December 6-Constitution Day (Dia de la Constitucion- National Holiday) In 1978 the people of Spain approved a referendum defining the Constitution of Spain. This set out how government would be run, what powers they had and determined the governmental system that Spain operates on today. Constitution day is a celebration of the day Spain became a democracy. This day is principally seen as the start of the December holidays and a long weekend is normally taken in conjunction with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In recent years however, Constitution Day has become more popular for protest marches and political statements.
  • December 8-Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Inmaculada Concepcion –National Holiday) This holiday in Spain is typically a day of additional church services in and around Madrid as well as in the rest of the country. This Spanish holiday is based on the Catholic dogma that states that while becoming pregnant the Virgin Mary did not suffer the “original sin” as she was “filled by god” and as such the conception was “immaculate”. Note that between the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Constitution Day the Spanish get two days off during this week, so many take the whole week off in the biggest puente of the year.
  • December 24/25 –Christmas (Navidad-National Holiday) Father Christmas in Spain is called Papa Noel. Although not originally the Spanish tradition, modern Western influences have brought with them the ‘Santa concept’ and today children expect Papa Noel to deliver them presents on Christmas Eve. Christmas holiday in Spain differs however in that the celebration meal (Nochebuena) occurs on the 24th and there is rarely another dinner or large feast on the 25th. Boxing Day is not really a Spanish tradition, however some businesses may still be closed until after the holiday season ending with Three Kings Day.

Regional Holidays Celebrated In Spain

Note: not complete. Feel free to mention any others below in the comments section. Also feel free to use the Wikipedia page as a guide:

Holidays in Alicante
April 13th - Holy Week Pilgrimage
April 17th
May 11-14th - Foietes fiesta with a floral offering Benidorm
June 20th - St.John’s Bonfires
October 9th

Holidays in Barcelona
April 17th
June 5th
June 24th
September 11th - Catalonia National Day Holiday-(Fiesta Nacional de Catalunya)
September 25th
December 26th - San Esteban (Regional Bank Holiday)

Holidays in Granada
January 2nd
February 28th - Andalucía National Day
April 5th - Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo)
June 15th
September 15th

Holidays in Madrid (see more detailed outline above for Madrid’s Regional Bank Holidays)
March 20th
April 13th
May 2nd
May 15th
November 9th

Holidays in Marbella
January 2nd
February 28th
April 13th
2nd May
June 11th - San Bernabe
October 19th - San Pedro de Alcantara

Holidays in Salamanca
June 12th - St. John of Sahagun Day
June 18th - Corpus Christi Holiday
July 25th - Santiago Apóstol
September 8th - Virgen de la Vega/-Town Festival
For More Bank Holidays in Salamanca see here

Holidays in Sevilla
January 2nd
February 28th
April 13th
May 30th
June 24th - Saint John’s Day (San Juan)

Holidays in Valencia
April 9th
April 17th
April 24th
June 9th
October 9th - Valencia’s National Day

Last updated 03 12 2020

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