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The Fiesta Nacional de España (National Holiday of Spain) is a Spanish public holiday that falls on October 12th. Read on to discover the history behind the celebration.
Spain’s National Day commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas and is also sometimes known as Día de la Hispanidad, or Hispanic Day. If October 12 falls on a Sunday, the holiday is usually moved to the following Monday so Spaniards can still have an extra day off work.
Italian-born Christopher Columbus set off from Palos de la Frontera in southwest Spain on August 3, 1492. Just over two months later he arrived in the “New World”, landing on an island that is now part of the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. Columbus, who was sponsored by the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, was actually looking for a western route to India but instead stumbled upon the Americas, a continent that had been largely unknown to Europeans. The discovery led to a period of rapid exploration of the continent.
Día de la Hispanidad was first celebrated in Madrid in 1935 and was made an official public holiday in 1981. In 1987, its name was changed to Fiesta Nacional (Spain’s National Day), removing any reference to Spanish colonialism.
Around the world
The day is also celebrated around the world: in the United States it is known as Columbus Day; Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Uruguay and Belize; Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Mexico, Chile and Colombia; and Discovery Day in the Bahamas. While in the United States, Columbus Day is a chance for Italian-Americans to celebrate their heritage, in much of Latin America, Día de la Raza has come to symbolize the opposite of Columbus Day—a celebration of native cultures and traditions that resisted the arrival of Europeans on American soil.
‘Dia de Muertos’ is a holiday that originated in Mexico 3000 years ago when the Aztecs held annual ceremonies to honour deceased loved ones and celebrate the return of their spirits. The Spanish conquering of the Empire in the 1500s brought the Catholic element to the holiday in the form of their own celebrations – All Souls and All Saints Day. The result is a holiday with a blend of pre-Hispanic indigenous and Spanish Catholic influence that is celebrated not just in Mexico but in Hispanic countries and populations across the world.
Love and remembrance
Contrary to how it might sound, this day is a joyous celebration to honour and celebrate loved ones through ritual and remembrance.In Valencia, the day follows a typical pattern that is echoed throughout Spain. Many people create a private altar – ‘altar de muerto’ – in their own home, as it is believed that the souls of the dead return to join their families for the festivities. By celebrating with family both alive and dead, this emphasises that death must be seen simply as the next step, as opposed to something to be feared. These home altars are brightly and lavishly decorated with candles, food, drinks and fluttering tissue paper to represent the four elements.
Festivals, street parties and parades start early and last into the night, with the notes of celebration marked by the depth of passion and feeling. Families will go to the cemetery to remember and pray for their loved ones and clean the grave. Offerings are brought to create a shrine, with items such as incense, fresh fruit, flowers and candles, as well as objects that the person was fond of when they were alive, such as clothing or photos.
In the build up to Christmas, residents of Spain find their working week disrupted once again. There are not one but two national holidays in Spain this week. Dia de la Constitucion (Constitution day) , celebrated on December 6th and Dia de la Inmaculada Concepcion (Immaculate Conception), on December 8th.
Is there a reason for these two National holidays or just another excuse? Actually ,these two dates are important holidays …
So, what is Constitution Day in Spain?
Constitution Day is a national holiday in honour of the constitution of Spain. The Spanish Constitution is the basis for the Law in Spain.
A little bit of History …
1812 marked the start of Spain’s constitutional history. If you would like further details on the different Spanish constitutional laws, there is a very easy to read table here here .
Generally, Spain has been run in the form of a Monarchy. The dictatorship period of Francisco Franco from 1938 to 1978 is possibly Spain’s most notorious period.
Following the death of the dictator Franco in 1975, and a general election in 1977, the Spanish Parliament drafted and approved the new “Constitution” which marked the transition from Dictatorship back to Monarchy and a Democracy. The 1978 Constitution was the first in Spanish constitutional history not to grant emergency power to the Head of State.
Los Padres de la Constitucion, (the Fathers of the constitution), is the name given to the seven members of a panel chosen to work on the draft of the Constitution. These members represented a wide, and often divided, political spectrum within the Spanish parliament.
The Constitution was approved by the Spanish Parliament 31st October 1978 and supported by 88% of the Spanish people who voted in a referendum on 6th December 1978.
The Constitution came into effect on 29th December 1978. Since that date, 6th December has been recognised as a National Holiday in Spain .
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in its oldest form, goes back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary.
As originally celebrated (and as still celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches), however, the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne does not have the same understanding as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception has in the Catholic Church today.
The feast arrived in the West probably no earlier than the 11th century, and at that time, it began to be tied up with a developing theological controversy. Both the Eastern and the Western Church had maintained that Mary was free from sin throughout her life, but there were different understandings of what this meant.