Saturday, January 27, 2007

Basque Winter Carnivals

This article comes to us via EITb:

Carnivals in the Basque Country

The most important festivities of the winter in the Basque Country are the carnivals.

Despite the fact that Carnival has often been kept alive by its rural representations, it has gradually developed and perfectly adapted itself in the cities and important towns, where it has possibly acquired even greater strength.

An excellent example of this is Tolosa (Gipuzkoa) which has endeavoured to keep its Carnival at all costs despite periods of suffering and repression. Everyone gets dressed up for the occasion in Tolosa, wearing costumes ranging from the simplest of jellabahs to the most sophisticated outfits imaginable. Bullfights, float parades, groups of dancers and competitions are only some of the activities that make the Tolosa Carnival an event to remember.

In Gipuzkoa, carnival time is announced by the tinkers' strange processions which imitate the nomadic wanderings of the gypsies who used to come to these areas over the carnival period, with their shows and skill in tin-smithery. In places such as Donostia-San Sebastian the rowdy tinkers "all the way from Hungary", arrive on the Saturday after 2nd February every year.

In Bizkaia too they remember the gypsy bands who arrived for the carnival - in the Zagari Dantza of Markina-Xemein, for example, which include a bear and its tamer among the dancers. There are many similar vestiges of rural carnival which the Basque Country has preserved. In Gipuzkoa, at the foot of Txindoki, one of the most beautiful mountains of this region, the youngsters of the two little communities of Amezketa and Abaltzisketa dance round the houses in an attempt to stir the goodwill and generosity of their neighbours. They are called txantxoak. In Zalduaondo, in Alava, the main character of the fiesta is a dummy, markitos, who, year after year is judged, convicted and put to death.

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