Vitoria Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca
Every first week of August Vitoria, the capital city of Alava, rolls up its sleeves to celebrate the annual ‘Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca’. For five days the city is filled with festivities, music, celebration and activities.
It all starts in the center of town in the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca where Don Celedon, a legendary local figure with an umbrella that looks like Mary Poppins, appears overlooking a crowd of thousands. Known as the ‘chupinazo’, the Celedon represents the start of the fiesta, when he descends over the crowd into the plaza, thousands of bottles of cava or sparkling wine are uncorked and sprayed into the air, while cigars are lit in celebration. Those in the crowd are advised to wear old clothing or a plastic poncho as the revelry begins. The crowd then cheers and sings, Gora Gasteiz! (Viva Vitoria), Gora Celedón! (Viva Celedón) and it marks the beginning of the five day fiesta.
Groups of friends then disperse into the streets, amid music and songs they cheer on residents to throw water out the balcony yelling ‘Agua! Agua!’. During the warm months of August the welcome cold shower bring on more laughter and cheers.
During the week spectators can enjoy local dance, arts and culture on the streets. There are parades of giants and big heads (gigantes and cabezudos), cooking contests, rural sports, concerts, fireworks and surprises around each corner. One not to miss activity is the lantern march, known as the Procesión de los Faroles, this parade of light and crystals dates back to 1855 and is celebrated on the streets once the sun goes down at 10 p.m. at night. Back in the early days the lanterns were made of cardboard, but now metal lanterns are used.
Some of you may be wondering, who was Don Celadon? According to popular legend his real name was Celedonio Alzola, a construction worker who was known in all of Vitoria for his contagious humor and laughter, especially during fiestas. It was his presence that brought happiness to the festivities, thus in 1957 a group of local friends got together and captured his image into the Celadon figure. Since then the Celadon has been used to open the fiestas every year, marking a unique tradition and even serving as inspiration for a well known children’s film.
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