Fiestas del Pilar

Zaragoza is the capital of the autonomous region of Aragon located in the northwest of Spain. Its patron saint is the Virgen del Pilar (Virgin Mary of the Pilar). She is honoured during the Fiestas del Pilar held on the 12th of October. It is one of the most popular festivals in Spain.

There are some festival activities organized in the week before the main event. It is officially opened with the Pregón (Opening speech). The speech is given from the balcony of the City Hall by some famous personality. Each year there is a new speaker.

At 4.30 am there is the Solemne misa de Infantes (Solemn Mass of Infants) in the Saint Chapel of the Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar). This church is believed to be the oldest one dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Ofrenda de flores
Ofrenda de flores

What follows is the ofrenda de flores (offering of flowers). On top of the pyramidal structure set on the Plaza del Pilar there is the statue of Virgin Mary. During whole morning and afternoon hundreds of thousands of people dressed in traditional clothes bring flowers and leave it there. The pyramid covered with flowers is really beautiful. This way the people show their devotion to the Virgen del Pilar.

Exactly at midnight people return to the Basílica del Pilar to attend the Misa Pontifical (Pontifical Mass). After the mass there is the procession. In the morning of the 13th of October people go to the Plaza del Pilar again. This time they bring fruits from whole region of Aragon. It is called the ofrenda de frutos (offering of fruits).

Rosario de Cristal
Rosario de Cristal

The next tradition is the spectacular procession of Rosario de Cristal (Rosary of Glass). It includes 29 glass floats that are illuminated from the inside. These floats are known as "faroles". 15 floats represent the mysteries of the rosary. Others are representing different famous buildings like the Basilica, the Sagrada Familia etc. Glass lampposts set along the route of procession are also very nice. The procession starts in the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). It continues through the main streets of the city centre.

Fiestas del Pilar also includes numerous concerts, a beer fair, shows for children etc. But, by far the most impressive of secular traditions present at this festival is the Comparsa de gigantes y cabezudos (Crew of gigantes and cabezudos).

El Forano
El Forano

The "gigantes" are huge chararcters, while "cabezudos" have disproportionally big heads. People inside them make them movable. There are nine cabezudos - “el Morico”, “el Boticario”, “el Robaculeros”, “el Torero”, “el Tuerto”, “el Forano”, “la Forana”, “el Verrugón” and “la Pilara”. Every cabezudo has its own song. They chase passing youngsters and gently hit them with whipcords. These scenes make everybody laugh. Gigantes traditionally dance in pairs.

The festival ends with a big concert held in Paseo de la Independencia. There is also a wonderful fireworks set along the Ebro river.