Carnivals in The Basque Contry



8-14 February

The Basque Autonomous Region celebrates carnivals in a special way. For several days, entertainment and good atmosphere fill the streets and towns of our geography.

The most popular and overcrowded Gipuzkoa carnivals are held in Tolosa. The big party starts officially on Big Thursday and concludes on Tuesday with "the burial of the sardine".

As for carnivals in San Sebastián, "comparsas" -groups participating in carnivals-, dressed as Caldereros, Percebes, Jardineros, Gallos, are of great importance as they honour Dios Momo, the main character.

To finish, youngsters from Amezketa and Abaltzisketa go all over nearby farmhouses asking for pocket money. There are known as "txantxoak".


In Biscay, Bilbao celebrates the popular carnivals with a traditional trial. "Farolín" and "Zarambolas" are taken to the traditional trial on the first carnival day. Both figures represent the showing off and kindness that is a characteristic of Bilbao citizens. Besides, "comparsas" become more prominent among the overcrowded beginning of carnivals also known as "bajada".

Not only Bilbao, but also the coastal town of Mundaka celebrates in a special way. "Atorras" (male inhabitants) and "lamias" (female inhabitants) are the undisputed characters in town.

What is more, the traditional carnivals of Markina-Xemein are also worth mentioning. Young "dantzaris" (Basque dancers) perform "zaragi-dantza" or "danza del odre" down the streets on Sunday. A fearsome bear accompanies the "comparsa" with a tamer that is responsible for keeping ghosts away and frighten children off.


Several areas in Álava give a warm welcome to carnivals. In fact, Vitoria carnivals kick off with "Jueves de Lardero". But , the climax is reached on the weekend thanks to the celebrated fancy dress contest and the overcrowded parade of "comparsas". The event comes to an end with the burial of the sardine in the Plaza Nueva Square.

In addition, Zalduondo celebrates a rural-character carnival. The popular event is considered to be one of the oldest celebrations of Álava. Together with many carnival characters, Zalduondo inhabitants parade up and down on Sunday with an eccentric puppet known as "Markitos". Its life is short as after standing trial the puppet is burnt at the stake before the inhabitants of Zalduondo. The emblematic character represents the evilness of natives. So, when Markitos is burnt all the inhabitants' sins are expiated. And do not forget carnivals in Ilarduia, Egino and AndoinLaudio, Santa Cruz de Campezo, Agurain -where people disguise themselves as "porreros" and "sorginas"- or Salcedo (Lantarón), where a puppet known as "Porretero" ends up onto a roof.

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