Traditional Village Fiestas in Spain – Gea de Albarracín

Traditional fiestas in Spain differ from village to village, but what can you really expect from these incredibly fun weeks?

First of all, don’t go into them naively like I did. Don’t expect a village fête like I did. Having taken my Spanish boyfriend to our local summer fair one year – much to his amusement – I can tell you they are not the same. You’re going to need a lot more stamina for traditional village fiestas in Spain. And a lot less skill in hooking a duck.

Gea's main street for the fiesta
Main street in Gea

What are traditional village fiestas in Spain?

I use the plural ‘fiestas’ lightly, I’m actually talking about the fiestas specifically in Gea – a village about 20mins away from Teruel and 90mins from Valencia. Of course, fiestas differ from region to region, village to village, but there are a few similarities. In Gea, the fiestas run every year from the 19th to the 24th of August to celebrate the saint of Gea – San Bernardo. Although, for the more traditional residents this is still the case, for a lot of people fiestas have become just that – one big party.

Every year there’s a timetable of what to expect. This usually includes a large waterslide down one of the main streets, a themed dress up night, a paella for the whole village, various bands, bingos and – the one downside of the fiestas – bulls. Each afternoon there is usually an event in the main plaza followed by a bit of dancing. There’s usually a mixture of the Paso Doble and Jota, the local dance. After that comes dinner in the peña and dancing all night – yes all night. 

Waterslide during the traditional fiestas in Gea (Spain)
Preparing the waterslide!

What is a Peña?

This confused me for a while. Before I first went, I’d heard my boyfriend talk about his peña and the various people in it. I’d also heard him use it to address our Spanish friends in Berlin, as well as it being a WhatsApp group. So I was a bit surprised when we rocked up to an old garage and was told that that was the peña. Turns out there are a few meanings. One, indeed in the case of our peña, is a garage. It’s the location in the village where you also meet your peña – the group of friends that hang out there. In Gea there are many peñas, all wearing different colours to identify themselves. They all meet in various garages, old bars and unused houses to eat, drink, chat and play games. And there is always a cold fridge inside, stacked full of cold drinks. That is a must.

View over Gea during fiestas with Peñas Royas in the background
View over Gea


Dancing all night.

The thing that fascinates me most about traditional village fiestas (and honestly Spain in general) is how late everyone stays up. I know that’s a little cliché to say and actually something I’m slowly getting used to, but I remember one night last year, after a gin-tonic or two, looking around the plaza at 3am and seeing grandmas and children alike, equally as awake and excited to win the bingo. The grandmas are always the first up dancing the Paso Doble

After the more traditional Spanish music, there is always a band or two playing until sunrise. Last year it was three incredibly beautiful women singing Village People songs. That was a bit weird. Imagine standing in the middle of a small village in Aragón being reminded of first school classics. Incredibly fun though. I also got to be a bit smug when no one knew the words to ‘In the Navy’. It’s usually me singing my version of a Spanish classic (who knew The Ketchup Song was actually ‘Asereje’ and not ‘I said a hey’).

Depending on your stamina – and here I have to admit my English blood has always let me down – you can also stay up until 8am for the Charanga. It’s kind of like a travelling band that goes around the village from peña to peña playing music when the sun has come up. Its customary for each peña to reward the people following the group with a beer or a shot. Stamina – told you.


Traditional fiesta food.

Towards the end of the week there’s always a paella lunch (because you never eat paella in the evening)! It’s really the largest paella I have ever seen – enough to feed nearly 500 people. I honestly don’t know how they do it but it’s really delicious. On the last night of the fiestas the village elders and organisers cook a bull stew served with some vino peleon – the finest fighty wine. Normally everyone pays in advance for a ticket and as a peña you go and collect it in your pans and plastic bottles. 

Traditional village fiestas in Spain - paella
Just one of the enormous paellas to feed the village!

I can really recommend going to fiestas in Spain. They’re something so important to the culture of the country and something so completely different to anything I’ve seen in England. I’d love to go to some of the more famous ones, as well as explore some of the smaller village ones. Incredibly fun and a real piece of authentic Spain.

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