Today, our featured writer is Janice Adams, who lives and works in Javea, where she sells properties for sale in the pueblo. Janice writes about a fascinating religious festival in Spain, Las Verbenas.
According to its origins, verbenas are known to be those holidays, splashed by a popular nature, which take place outdoors and are associated with the celebration of patronal feasts in different areas from Madrid. Verbenas, as such, are more modern than pilgrimages, since the most ancient one is the Saint Peter’s Verbena, which dates back to the beginning of the 18th century and used to be held every June 29th.
Their names are related to a famous herb known as verbena which, since ancient times, has been considered a medicinal herb and tends to blossom in the spring. Its flowers can be pink, purple or pale blue and, in terms of height, it orbits around one meter high.
Its flowers are associated with ancient magic and religious rites, since it was used by Celtic druids, and then by Roman priests, the medieval magicians and healers. In war times, heralds were sent to the enemy with a verbena branch as a token of peace.
Also, the verbena is considered to be a medicinal herb in the European culture; it is well-known as Herbe Sacrée (literally meaning sacred grass in French) or Herb of Grace in Great Britain due to its beneficial powers.
Traditionally, the branches of the verbena flowers have to be gathered at night, when the moon is not seen at the sky.
A festivity was born
So, it became a tradition in Madrid to go out to enjoy the popular dances, celebrated at night, by having a bunch of verbena flowers on the lapel, in case of men, and on the breast, in case of women. This can explain why the generic word ‘verbena’ is used to refer to any popular holiday celebrated with dance and almost always during the night.
In the course of time, some verbenas have been disappearing and, scarcely, a memory of them remains in the local people’s minds as a pleasant one.
Nowadays, the remaining ones (chronologically listed below) go on shining as outdoor and night celebrations for the Spanish people.
La Verbena de San Isidro de Madrid (from May 14th to 15th)
La Verbena de San Antonio de la Florida (from June 12th to 13th)
La Verbena de San Juan de Madrid (From June 23rd to 24th)
La Verbena de San Pedro de Madrid (from June 28th to 29th)
Las Verbenas del Carmen de Madrid (from July 15th to 16th)
La Verbena de Santiago de Madrid (from July 24th to 25th)
La Verbena de San Cayetano de Madrid (from August 6th to 7th)
La Verbena de San Lorenzo de Madrid (from August 9th to 10th)
La Verbena de la Paloma (from August 14th to 15th)
La Verbena de la Melonera de Madrid (from September 7th to 8th)
Madrid’s modern architecture is also worth a mention. There are some superb new buildings on both sides of the Paseo de la Castellana, including the Torre Picasso, one of Madrid´s tallest building.
For a complete entertainment guide see “La Guía del Ocio” (in Spanish) which appears in all newsagents and newspaper kiosks once a week on a Monday. Similar publications printed in both English and Spanish are Enjoy Madrid (free publication which can be found in hotels, Barajas airport and tourism offices) and “What’s On”, which is available in tourism offices.