Thursday, November 22, 2012

Feria de Sevilla (the Seville Fair)

By Edith McClintock

Photo by Ed Tarwinski 
I’ll start with a simple opinion: the greatest festival in the world—a bacchanal of eat, drink, dance, ride a horse, kill a bull, and be merry—is the Feria de abril de Sevilla (Feria for short, or the Seville Fair in English). Feria, which was originally created in 1847 as a livestock fair, lasts nearly a week (sometimes more) and follows quickly after the Spanish holy holidays of Semana Santa and Easter.

Semana Santa, which dates from medieval times, is religious and somber when celebrated in Seville. During the holy week leading up to Easter, brotherhoods of men carry pasos (giant wooden floats of “Passion scenes” or the Virgin Mary) from their year-round homes in neighborhood churches to the main Cathedral. The parades are both gorgeous and unnerving because the Ku Klux Klan from the American South based their own tunics and pointed hats with tiny eyeholes on the Semana Santa garments and it’s hard to separate the images.

After Semana Santa and Easter, if you’re a student, comes spring break, followed by the greatest festival of them all: Feria, which is neither religious nor somber. All together, it’s basically a month-long holiday, which also makes Seville an excellent city to spend a semester abroad in college—as I did.

Feria is a week with little sleep. The party starts in the morning at the fairgrounds with parades of Andalusian men and women in their flamenco finery riding decorative carriages and horses past rows of bright casetas (tents) and on to the Plaza de Toros and the bullfighting. The next stage of the fiesta doesn’t begin until ten or eleven at night and ends well past sunrise. The crowds, who gather in casetas organized by families, businesses, and various associations, party past dawn drinking small glasses of local sherry, eating tapas, and dancing Sevillanas (a flamenco style dance for the common man). I was nineteen and I went every night.

Pimientos de Padrón
Many years later…I still love to dance Sevillana, although it’s not so popular in the United States, even in Miami, so that’s a rare event. Sherry? Eh. I never did take to sherry of any kind. But Spanish tapas? Tapas I can eat everyday. Certain friends have even complained that I serve little else at parties. Truthfully, I’ll happily take Spanish olives, Spanish tortilla, fried calamares, gazpacho, Manchego cheese, pimientos de padrón (deep fried hot peppers), patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy aioli sauce) and ensalada Rusa (Russian salad) over traditional Thanksgiving fare—although I’m very appreciative of my relatives cooking the grand meal today while I travel cross-county to join in the festivities this afternoon. Thank you.

And since it’s a holiday and I’m off to spend some time with family, I’ll close with a Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers. To everyone else, I wish you a wonderful feast of your own. And I’m happy to take recommendations on the best festivals in the world, although I’ll never be nineteen and in Spain again, so Feria will likely remain the greatest of them all. For me anyway.
Entrance to Feria
For more, visit my author website and/or personal blog, A Wandering Tale. Even better, order a copy of Monkey Love & Murder on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or the Book Depository (free shipping nearly anywhere in the world).

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