I’m not even quite sure of how to begin this piece on Feria, but I just know that it is deserving of a posting all of its own. Of the five wonderful months that I spent in Sevilla, this is by far one of my favorite memories, and truly left me with such a lasting impression of the people and the culture of this beautiful city.
La Feria de Abril de Sevilla is a festival that takes place during the spring months, approximately two weeks after Semana Santa. When I was there in 2012, the fair ran from April 23 to April 29, and the weather was blissfully beautiful. There had been nothing but rain during entire week of Semana Santa, which sadly prevented many of the floats from going out…I think it’s fair to say that the entire city heaved a sigh of relief when there was nothing but sun and cloudless skies for this celebration.
All of Sevilla celebrates this festival, and in true Spanish fashion most everything shuts down to allow the people of the city a full week of dancing, eating, and drinking – with time for siestas in between! The first day of Feria is a Monday, but it begins the night before at midnight with the lighting of the Portada, or the main entrance to the fairgrounds. Feria runs the entire week and concludes on a Sunday, with a display of fireworks over the Guadalquivir river. A week seems like both a long time and a short time, but by the end of Feria, even the locals have tired themselves out 🙂
Because we had the entire week off from school, my roommate and I planned a trip to Italy that would get us back into Sevilla for Monday afternoon. Some other students in our program chose to take off the entire week to travel to another country, and I have to say that I am beyond grateful that we didn’t decide to do the same – those countries will always be there, but Feria only comes once a year! One of my favorite aspects of this experience was the clothing…it puts dressing up back home to shame. When I saw pictures of how the locals dressed I found it hard to believe that everyone would really go to such lengths to get dressed up, but trust me, the people of this city know how to pick an outfit! Feria dresses are a thing of beauty, and the colors and patterns are truly remarkable. Because they are such intricate dresses, however, they can easily cost hundreds of euros, meaning that myself and my friends did not buy one…we did, however, go to a market in March with cheap dresses and skirts, so we all had something fancy to wear 🙂 My favorite part, however, even more so than the dresses, was the hair; ll of the girl wear their hair in beautiful updos with a bright comb, and a HUGE bright flower to top it all off. The men’s outfits are a little less extravagant, but no less elegant. Most men, including our host father and host brothers, wear their nicest suits, but some will still wear trousers and bots with a short jacket and a hat.
During the day there is music, horse-drawn carriages, and bright rows of casetas, which are essentially temporary tents that are owned by families, organizations, or clubs throughout the city . These casetas can be very exclusive and difficult to get into, but luckily for me and my roommate, our host family owned one! To call it a “tent” seems like an understatement to be honest, because it was very intricately decorated, with tables, paintings, streamers, and its own bar and bartender in the back. Oh, a note on alcohol: during Feria the drink of choice is a rebujito, which is a mixture of Manzanilla and Sprite….it is, to put it simply, delicious.
At night the fairgrounds are transformed, with a carnival, more music and dancing, and a vibrant, festive atmosphere. The locals all dance the Sevillanas, which is a type of dance that I might compare to Flamenco dancing, although I know there are many differences between the two. I still listen to the songs that I heard during the fair, and Sevillana music has truly become some of my favorite – it’s just so lighthearted and upbeat. This dance is a partnered dance,and it is very choreographed; myself and a number of other students in my program took a Sevillanas class in the months before the fair, and I still felt like I had two-left feet when I actually tried to do it! That said, the locals who saw my attempts were beyond gracious, and being able to watch them dance was absolutely enchanting. The dance floor becomes a swirl of bright skirts and flowers, and there’s always a rhythmic clapping accompanied by shouts of “Ole!”
True locals will stay out until 6 or 7 in the morning, but I always found myself exhausted by 4 or 5…I don’t know how they do it! I’ll never forget the night that I collapsed in my bed around 4:30, only to be woken up a mere two hours later to hear my fourteen year-old host brother tip-toeing back into the apartment; even at a young age they know how to enjoy a fiesta!
Feria was truly magical, and I know that despite my best efforts, I didn’t even come close to capturing the essence of it in this post. I daydream about going back and cannot wait until April of 2015….I’d better start putting money away for a proper dress now!