A double celebration is held every year on October 12 in Zaragoza: ‘Día de Nuestra Señora del Pilar’ and ‘Día de la Hispanidad’.
During the week leading up to the 12th of October, Zaragoza comes alive with music, parades, flowers and theatre in honour of the Virgin of Pilar (Nuestra Señora del Pilar). The female patron saint of Spain is honoured with an abundance of flowers as the history and culture of Spain is remembered and celebrated. Trails of roses, lilies, orchids and gladiolus wind their way to the Plaza de Pilar as an offering to the Virgin.
A bit of history
The origins of this festival dates back to 40 AD when St. James the Apostle went to the area to spread Christianity to the mostly Pagan population. Legend says that during his journey to the Aragonese territory, the Virgin Mary appeared to him and asked to build a church on the land he was standing on. Initially, a chapel was built around the pillar where the Virgin Mary appeared. However, bigger and grander churches were built over the centuries. Today, the Basilica del Pilar stands on this spot. It is a magnificent church that was built in 1681. In the 18th Century, major renovations were made and in the 20th Century, the towers were finally completed.
Displayed inside the Holy Chapel (Capilla Santa) is the pillar that the Virgin descended on. Hundreds of pilgrims visit it everyday and plant a kiss on a small exposed section of the pillar.
This festival is not bound by one style of music. You will hear reggae, jazz, rock and more. This celebration is full of culture and history where music and dance is taken to the streets. If you are lucky you might come across the Jota. This is a type of dance that can be traced back to the 1600s.
During the procession, you will see giants and big heads (gigantes y cabezudos) which are huge paper mache figures who roam around the street and mingle with the crowds. Another part of Spanish history and culture is bull fighting so you can be sure this will be part of the attraction.
Get your party shoes on and head over to El Tubo, the area of town full of bars and restaurants. After a drink or two and some delicious food, head over to the Paseo de los Bearneses and enjoy its beautifully lit fountain.