By Catherine McGeer •
Published: 14 Aug 2023 • 18:00
Celebratioons throughout Spain on August 15. Image: Shutterstock/bodiaphvideo
Celebrating the Annual Bank Holiday of Virgen de la Asunción in Spain
Every year on August 15, Spain comes alive with festivities as it celebrates the Annual Bank Holiday of Virgen de la Asunción, also known as the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. This significant holiday holds deep religious and cultural meaning for the Spanish people, bringing communities together to honour the Virgin Mary’s ascent into heaven. The holiday holds special significance in various regions across Spain, making it one of the most anticipated and vibrant celebrations during the summer.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary refers to the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was taken body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life, without experiencing death. This religious doctrine, upheld by the Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church and some Protestant denominations, is celebrated annually on August 15. The Feast of the Assumption is considered a triumph of Mary’s faithfulness and devotion, symbolising the victory of God in her life.
The holiday dates back to the 7th century, with its roots firmly planted in the Christian tradition. It commemorates the day Mary ascended into heaven, and it holds particular importance within the Catholic Church. In 1950, Pope Pius XII officially proclaimed the Assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith, solidifying its significance within the Catholic doctrine.
August 15 is marked as a national holiday in Spain, known as the Annual Bank Holiday of Virgen de la Asunción. It is one of the eight nationwide holidays observed throughout the year. This holiday is celebrated across all the autonomous communities in Spain, including Andalucia, Cataluña, Madrid, Valencia, and more. It is a non-recoverable holiday, meaning it cannot be rescheduled, and many workers look forward to the accompanying long weekend or ‘puente’ (‘bridge’) by taking a vacation day on the Monday preceding the holiday.
The Assumption of the Virgin coincides with numerous local patron saint festivities, adding a vibrant layer of culture and tradition to the celebrations. In Madrid, for instance, the feast is marked by the Verbenas of Virgen de la Paloma, the patron saint of the La Latina neighbourhood. Similarly, various towns and cities throughout Spain commemorate their patron saints during this time.
Each region in Spain embraces the Annual Bank Holiday of Virgen de la Asunción in its own way, creating a diverse range of celebrations that reflect the cultural identity and traditions of the area. Here are some notable examples:
Sevilla: In Sevilla, the holiday is celebrated with a grand procession of the Virgin Mary. Devotees gather to witness the procession, which is a cherished tradition. The Virgen de los Reyes, the patron saint of the archdiocese, takes centre stage during this event.
Cadiz: The city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Cadiz takes the celebrations to the beach. Residents create intricate carpets made of salt, lining the streets with these artistic creations. The Caridad Coronada procession passes through these streets, creating a visually stunning display.
Malaga: The Malaga Fair, closely associated with the holiday, commemorates the Catholic Monarchs’ victory over the Muslims in 1487. This fair, held from August 16 to 23, is a blend of religious and entertainment activities, including horse shows, music, dance, and sports events.
Valencia: The Cathedral of Valencia becomes the focal point of the celebrations. The image of the Dormition of Mary is transferred from the temple of Los Milagros to the Cathedral, accompanied by a lively procession and music. The bells of the Cathedral ring out, creating a great atmosphere.
Elche: The city of Elche is renowned for the ‘Mystery of Elche,’ a sacred-lyrical drama that reenacts the Dormition, Assumption, and Coronation of the Virgin Mary. This artistic masterpiece has been designated as part of the UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
This nationwide holiday is a significant event in the Spanish calendar. In 2023, falling on a Tuesday, it necessitates adjustments in business hours. While many establishments will remain closed, some supermarkets like Mercadona, Lidl, Carrefour, Alcampo, Aldi, Dia, Supercor, and Hipercor will have modified schedules on this day, with varied opening and closing hours depending on the location. Mercadona has already announced that they will be open until 3 pm and other supermarkets have advertised their updated schedules on each website.
Local markets will usually change the date and this change is usually notified on the town hall website or social media accounts.
The next national bank holiday or red day as they are often referred to is the Fiesta Nacional de España on October 12.
As with all Spanish bank holidays the use of fireworks can be pretty much guaranteed so if you are a pet parent you might try the following tips to help your furry friend:
Create a Safe Space
Set up a cozy and secure space in your home where your pet can retreat to during the fireworks. This could be a quiet room or their crate, filled with familiar bedding and toys.
Close Windows and Curtains
Keep windows and curtains closed to minimize the sights and sounds of the fireworks. This can help reduce the sensory overload for your pet.
Offer your pet toys or treats that they enjoy. Engaging them in play or giving them a puzzle toy can help take their mind off the fireworks.
Pets often pick up on their owner’s emotions. If you remain calm and relaxed, it can help your pet feel more at ease.
Use White Noise
Playing calming background noise, such as soft music, white noise, or even a TV show, can help drown out the sound of fireworks.
Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with up-to-date identification tags. In case your pet does get frightened and runs away, this will increase the chances of them being safely returned to you.
Let us know how your local town celebrates this national bank holiday!
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I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!
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