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Soul stirring celebrations

Words by Andrew Forbes 

Spring is welcomed with signature vibrancy and style in Andalucía’s capital, where the senses are intoxicated with the sights, sounds and scents of the Seville’s Feria de Abril. Southern Spain is renowned for its colourful and exuberant festivals, week-long celebrations that have been part of the region’s cultural heritage for centuries. 

Undoubtedly, the Feria de Abril in Seville is the most iconic. A flamboyant temporary city of elaborate marquees and tents emerges each year in Los Remedios, on the city’s feria ground. Around 15 temporary streets are created and lined with paper ‘farolillos’ lanterns and up to a thousand ‘casetas’, temporary party marquees with signature painted ‘pañoletas’ above each entrance.  

Seville’s feria has a uniquely vibrant atmosphere, making it an unmissable event. Amongst the private casetas, where families, friends, and colleagues celebrate life, there are also a number of public casetas, where visitors are warmly invited to share in the joy of this cultural phenomenon.  

Here you can sip a chilled sherry wine, while tucking into tasty tapas and ‘raciones’, full plates of food like pescaito frito, the classic Andalucian assortment of fried fish and seafood including prawns, calamares, puntillitas (very small squid), and adobo (flavoursome marinated, breaded fish), while foot tapping to the rhythm of the live music. Or have a go at a traditional Sevillana folk dance, enjoying the remarkable spirit of the fair, an annual showcase of Andalucian traditions from flamenco to bullfighting.  

This is a weeklong celebration of music, food, drink and of course fashion. Women usually wear ‘trajes de gitanas’ or gipsy-style flamenco dresses, with fitted bodices that run down to voluminous, tiered, and ruffled skirts. At first glance these vibrant dresses may appear traditional, yet if one looks at little closer, one sees that often the intricate designs are contemporary flourishes of fashionable creativity by local and national designers. Seville designer Rocío Peralta is particularly renowned for her ‘flamenco’ fashion. Loved by locals and international celebrities alike, Rocío’s unique dresses and shawls not only capture the authentic spirit and cultural significance of time-honoured flamenco dresses but reimagines them with new fabrics, striking colours and contemporary flair. 

Men wear elegant suits, while the horse riders wear distinct tailored jackets and wide-brimmed hats, evocative outfits that have an alluring nostalgia but also a modern sleekness. 

The sophistication and elegance of today’s ferias are a far cry from the gatherings of centuries past. Originally livestock events, these ferias were where farmers and traders would come together to buy and sell animals like cattle and horses, as well as agricultural products, and handicrafts. With Andalucía’s enduring spirit of celebration, it is little surprise that food, music, and dance soon became integral parts of these fairs, creating the cherished traditions of today’s extraordinary events in Andalucia. 

Flamenco, the remarkable World Heritage artform, so evocative of Andalucia, is an integral part of an Andalucian feria. These gatherings offer talented musicians, singers, and dancers the opportunity to showcase their skills and for visitors to lose themselves in the captivating music, song, and dance. 

Renowned for their strength beauty and intelligence, Spanish pure breed horses are prized around the world, and Andalucia’s equestrian traditions are another striking element of festivals and fairs in Southern Spain. Equestrian shows, and horse carriage riding competitions often form part of the seasonal ferias. Jerez de la Frontera is not only home to the world’s sherry bodegas, but also the magnificent Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation, and the city’s feria is a celebration of its equestrian culture. 

Ferias play a central role in the cultural life of Andalucia. So much so that each city and town host its own unique celebration. During the year, one is never far from a joyous party full of music, food, and revelry. As well as Seville Feria de Abril and Jerez’s Feria del Caballo, there are a number of ferias closer to Sotogrande, including the Feria Real of Algeciras, the Feria of Estepona and Ronda’s spectacular Feria de Pedro Romero. Many ferias happen close to important religious dates in the Spanish calendar, from Easter, Holy Week, and remarkable processions. Estepona’s feria, for example, is closely followed by its Virgen del Carmen parade for the patron saint for sailors and fishermen, where the parade reaches the sea, and the Virgin is taken out onto the water surrounded by a flotilla of fishing and leisure boats in an extraordinary mixture of devotion and partying. 

Each celebration embodies the passion, warmth, and hospitality for which Andalucia is renowned. These annual ferias, built upon a rich cultural heritage, are a contemporary opportunity to be immersed in a destination, to savour the cuisine, lose yourself in the music and dance like nobody is watching! 

 

Seville, La Feria de Abril 14 – 20 April 2024 

Andalucia’s most famous and spectacular feria. 

 

Jerez, La Feria de Caballo 4 – 11 May 

A much-loved feria, highlighting the Andalusian pure breed horse. 

 

Algeciras, La Feria Real de Algeciras 22 – 29 June 

This feria still includes a livestock fair, as well as a regatta.  

 

Estepona, Feria & Fiestas Mayores 2 – 7 July  

Charming seaside feria. 

 

Ronda, Feria & Fiestas de Pedro Romero 2 – 8 September 

Renowned for its Corrida Goyesca and 18th century style Carriage Driving Competition 

 

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