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Explore the 3 Best Annual Cultural Celebrations in Madrid

segway plaza de españa

The 3 Best Annual Cultural Celebrations in Madrid

  • Carnival
  • Nochevieja
  • Virgin La Paloma

The cultural life in Madrid is highly valued because there are many cultural celebrations throughout the year. People committedly participate in them and enjoy them greatly. Madrid being a safe and hospitable place as it is, even visitors can feel the joy of such festivals in case one finds you there.

Madrilenos have a strong sense of their cultural traditions and they highly respect them. As a visitor, if you happen to experience one of the festivals with a local, that’s when you can gain a deeper understanding of the weight of a cultural festival to an indigenous of Madrid. Traditionally, Madrid is Catholic and therefore their celebrations hinge around this religious background. Many tourists who have experienced some of these festivals in one of their tours always target the same time in the subsequent year/years to be around so as to enjoy again. This article focuses on 3 of the prominent festivals; Carnival, Nochevieja and Virgin La Paloma.

  • Carnival Festival

carnaval en madrid

This is one of the most important festivals in Madrid and it is celebrated in February. It is highly valued by the Spanish and Madrilenos in particular. It takes place in a week leading to Lent and they are setting themselves well to stop eating meat during the Lent season a strong belief and tradition in the Catholic religion to fast from eating meat until Lent is over.  Lent season takes 40 days and a true Catholic must exercise vegetarianism all that time.

The celebration features a lot of programs for that day to make it lively. There are many amusing activities that take place on that day. The opening night hosts a number of cultural carnival parade. The ceremony is always headed by a religious celebrity who values social and cultural traditions.  A specific theme is always identified and this sets the tone of the ceremony. There are special costumes used by all participants and they have to rhyme with the theme. There is always a parade in honor of the occasion. Then there comes the masquerade balls for those who wear the masks. There is always a speech given by the celebrant highlighting about the essence of the occasion and encouraging people to be firm in their Catholic beliefs by following Jesus’ example of fasting for 40 days. By shunning meat for 40 days, they are fasting and they expect great achievements in their lives if they faithfully do this. There is also music, concerts and art shows all intended to entertain people. They continue to enjoy live performances that go on for nearly a week.

This festival is very significant in the lives of Madrid people and all those who celebrate it as well. First of all it is a time of exercising their catholic religious belief powerfully.  They believe that out of observing the Lent season piously, you get good luck, and all problems in your life fade away. It is also a way of coming together in the spirit of brotherhood and even if there are visitors, they are incorporated and they experience that spirit of oneness. The Carnival celebration also serves as a time for people to break from the cycle of daily toil and just use it to relax and be merry from the entertainment and the general happiness that is experienced during the celebration. It is a way of recommitting oneself back into the religious powers that help believers to move on in life. It is used as a time to terminate the evil powers that they believe dig their way into a believer’s life and keep tormenting them, but with such a festival which after all ushers in a time of commitment in prayers, it cleanses the life of a true catholic believer.

Conclusively, the carnival festival is very important in the lives of Madrid people. That is why they put in their time and effort to ensure that the day comes to pass in a very lovely way. The fruits that come out of it are so valuable in the life of a Madrid local that participates piously. Therefore that is why it continues to take place annually in the same powerful spirit.

  • Nochevieja Festival

noche vieja en madrid

This is another awesome occasion. Celebrated on the eve of the New Year, it carries a lot of meaning, weight and value in the lives of Madrilenos and the Spanish at large. The midnight of 31st December always lands on an atmosphere of excitement, celebration and merry making. The most popular venue for this annual celebration in Madrid is Puerta del Sol square. In fact the whole world celebrates this moment but in most cultures, it is celebrated on an individual person’s level. In Madrid however, the course is different. It is communally celebrated and there are universal guidelines for the occasion which make it more meaningful and sensible.

It is characterized with the chiming of the clock at midnight and they give a special regard to eating grapes as soon as the clock hour hand strikes 12:00 a.m. The gong will sound twelve times and at each sound you are supposed to eat a grape so that you eat 12 grapes with the twelve gong sounds. There is a clock on top of Casa de Correos building which helps in this traditional time count down. There is strong religious belief attached to this action that you will experience good luck and prosperity throughout the 12 months of the coming year. Most people prepare a delicious traditional dinner which they share together as a family and even friends. Restaurants close on that occasion because of this arrangement in homes. All these are done before midnight so that afterwards they gather in the square to do the grape eating communally.

Even those who don’t go to the square grace themselves somewhere in front of a television ready with their grapes to participate in the ritualistic grape eating as they bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one. The grape eating session is then followed by celebrations in different spots apart from the emblematic squares till morning. Some celebrate from clubs, others in the safety of their homes and any other private spots. The shouts, hugs and kisses wishing one another a “Happy New Year” is the immediate next activity after the grape eating, and it is also mindfully done to whoever is next to you regardless of whether you know them or not; a perfect reflection of a spirit of brotherhood. The rest of the time is for dancing, drinking, chatting and generally being happy.

A few Madrid hotels organize for this occasion by preparing multi-course gourmet meals for the tourists and those who may have not had the home meal arrangement. Then dancing and general entertainment follows. Some squares such as Plaza de Espana always stay open displaying its artistic products from which tourists and any other people can obtain souvenirs for the New Year festival. The festival is usually crowned with chocolate and churros. Most places prepare the favorite hot cup of chocolate and some freshly made Churros which they value so much.

In conclusion, Nochevieja is a marvelous festival that has seen a number of tourists coming to Spain to enjoy with the Spanish as they usher in the New Year in a ritualistic style. Everybody wants a good luck-filled life in this world; therefore some visitors come to Madrid for this festival with a target of tapping in the powers of a prosperous new year. It is a remarkable occasion which people look forward to celebrating.


  • La Paloma Festival

This is another splendid occasion that anyone who understands what it entails does not dare miss it. It is celebrated annually in August between 11th -16th, with15th August as the climax. The history of this festival rotates around Isabel Tintero’s acquiring the picture of a virgin from the children who found it in a corral. Tintero, who lived on Paloma Street, displayed it on her door and it captivated the people who came in search of cure and protection. Years later, it was moved to a chapel where more and more people continued to come to pay homage to it seeking cure and protection. This chapel was built to cater for the big number of devotees that came to worship and pray to the virgin. The chapel was named after this virgin as well as the street where it was situated. The common ground for celebrations is Plaza de las Vistillas.

Many forms of entertainment dominate this occasion. It begins with the firemen carrying the picture of La Paloma Virgin on their shoulders. They place it on a well-set platform and they adore it with floral carnations. The Madrilenos, clad in their traditional costumes of Chulapos and Chulapas, parade around pray and experience the religious indulgence before the virgin’s image. They shower their praises and thankfulness for protection, cure and general well-being attained by praying to the virgin and getting answers. A general mass prayer is conducted by religious leaders in honor of the occasion.

When the religious part is done with, everyone now filled with faith of having acquired new life that is free from troubles, they embark on general celebrations.  Throughout the beautifully decorated streets, with multi-color lights dazzling, people celebrate heartily. They embark on street parties and enjoy different forms of entertainment.

There is dancing of Chotis which is traditional dance of the Madrelinos and which they gladly associate with their traditional culture because they are so attached to their culture. The evening is enjoyed in many styles for example there are fireworks shows and they just make the occasion glamorous. People sit together in groups watching and enjoying the entertainment.

Some even opt to enjoy away from the festival ground by going to places of each one’s choice. That is a special day for that particular festival so every arrangement rhymes with the occasion. This implies that even clubs’ settings are geared towards the occasion. In most cases there are outdoor night clubs with music performances by orchestras and other popular musicians who put up entertaining shows. Visitors interact with locals warmly and everyone becomes happy.

Children are not left out. Parents move out with their children as every part of the occasion is relevant to all. They also share in all the fun, run and jump around playfully as children always do and get the most out of the day.

All forms of cuisines are prepared; indigenous and international alike. Visitors do not find any problems in enjoying what they feel like eating. Drinks are served and the night really becomes fun-packed.

All in all, the La Paloma festival that has been celebrated annually in Madrid and Spain as a whole still remains an outstanding occasion for the Spanish and a number of tourists who know it. It is a joyful occasion that leaves people refreshed and vibrant enough to push on with life which usually burden people with troubles and misery. After such an experience however, people are charged and find life happy and bearable for some time.


Festivals and the people of Madrid are indispensable. The above are just a few of the many celebrations held in Madrid annually. It is a commendable tradition because it is an opportunity to break from the daily bothers and struggles of life. Since they are occasions of joy, excitement and merry making, they are good at refreshing people’s lives many occasions in a year which keeps them happy. Many tourists enjoy visiting Madrid and there are several reasons for this including this one of enjoying certain festivals. The above three are among the prominent ones and they are all religious-related. This could even be one of the reasons why Madrid is relatively free from crime compared to most other world places because people who are so religious tend to be better as they are guided by religious principles that condemn all forms of crime in the strongest sense.