Updated: Feb 28
Hello! Welcome to my third blog about the Carnival in Spain. In this blog I will be writing about one of the very famous Carnivals in Spain which is well ingrained in its local tradition and in a region that has a special meaning to me.
In my first blog about the Carnival I write about the origin and traditions of the Carnival in Spain and in my second one I suggest ideas and activities for children to do based on the Carnival traditions. If you haven't read them and you are interested you can find them on the following link.
There are many different Carnival celebrations all over Spain, each region has their own traditions and some are deeply rooted within their communities. During the Civil War in Spain, specifically in 1937, the Carnival was banned. Towns and cities regained their festivities at different points in time after the dictatorship ended (1975). However, in those places where the Carnival was strongly ingrained they managed to get permission to celebrate them during the dictatorship.
Carnavales de Verín , Xinzo de Limia y Laza, Orense, Galicia
I am focusing on Galicia because I lived there for five years and I must admit to having a soft spot for the place. It is in the North West of Spain, just above Portugal and it has an amazingly rich and unique culture. Old Celtic and pagan traditions still run strongly within the community. Their gastronomy is full of wholesome, good quality and delicious dishes, such as seafood, octopus, traditional stews, cheeses and their own wines. They play the bagpipes and the landscape is beautifully green due to its rainy weather. Does this last bit sound familiar?
Oh, and they have their own language, Galician, which sounds a little bit like a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese.
There are many Carnival celebrations in the four regions that comprise Galicia, but I'm going to focus on the ones in Ourense, as they are very famous. Two of them have been declared of National Touristic Interest (Carnival of Verín and Carnival of Xinzo de Limia). This is a status granted by the Government and to obtain it the festivity needs to have achieved certain requirements. And the third one deserves a mention as it has quite unusual brutal traditions that are not for the faint-hearted! (Carnival of Laza).
It is thought that all three of them originate from purifying agricultural pre-roman rites. However today we are going to focus on the one in Verín.
Entroido de Verín (Entroido means Carnival in Galician)
Before I start I must mention my friend Chus, who lives in Galicia, as I must thank her (Gracias, Chus) for sending me video footage and photos which I have used to put this section together.
One of the fascinating things bout the Carnival in Verín is its typical character called "cigarrón" who runs through the streets of Verín during the Carnival with a whip hitting the locals. It's believed to originate from medieval times, maybe as tax collectors or as beaters for the noble hunters, although nobody really knows for sure.
Becoming a "cigarrón" is a privilege which is passed down within families. Originally the honour was only reserved to the men, but nowadays the tradition is catching up with modern times and females are allowed to become "cigarrones".
Children are allowed to dress up as a "cigarrón", but they are not allowed to wear the mask until they reach the age of 14/15, as it can be difficult to see and run in the correct manner. There is a specific way "cigarrones" must move and run ringing the bells that hang from a leather belt fastened around their waist. I should imagine they must be very fit!!! The costume is complex, heavy and requires other people to help to put it on. Both the mask and the costume are hand made by artisans. All together it can cost around 2500 euros. A word of warning, nobody is allowed to throw anything at the "cigarrones" or stain their costume, otherwise they will be made to leave the town and they won't be allowed there again.
In the YouTube video above a little boy talks in Galician about his dad, who is a "cigarrón". You can see the dad putting on the costume, joining the other "cigarrones" and running along the streets of Verín.
As well as these fascinating and traditional characters there are other activities and celebrations that take place during this Carnival. There are parades, music...and a flour battle!!! I have never been to Verín, but it sounds awesome. I really would love to take part in a flour battle...What about you? Do you think you fancy being covered from top to bottom in flour? Later I shall be talking about the traditions in Laza, those I'm not so sure I would like to experience!
If you like your food and drink Galicia is the place to visit. One of the traditional dishes is the Galician stew (cocido gallego). It is quite a strong dish with many ingredients, lots of different types of meats, turnip tops and chickpeas. Ideally washed down with a local wine. And a fabulous remedy to beat the cold weather. Nothing better on a chilly and wet day than sitting in a restaurant eating "cocido" and watching the windows steam up!
I have made a short video about the Carnival in Verín for you with my friend Chus' footage and photos. I hope you enjoy it.