24 hours of drums in San Sebastian

La Tamborrada in San Sebastian Credit: MerZab CC

With a reputation of being one of the gourmet centres of northern Spain, the trendy city of San Sebastian genuinely marches to the beat of its own drum.

Could you stand the noise?

That’s because on January 20 each year, its Patron Saints Day, the people of the city (also known in the Basque language as Donostia) celebrates La Tamborrada where up to 15,000 locals gather together and beat drums all day and night.

Local clubs (in many ways like the Catholic Brotherhoods) vie with each other to offer the most spectacular event as they march through the city dressed in traditional Basque costumes, chefs outfits or 19th century military uniforms.

A genuine Spanish spectacle
Credit: San Sebastian Tourism

A plausible explanation

Like most events of this type, the origin is forgotten but one of the most plausible reasons is that La Tamborrada was introduced at the start of the 19th Century during the Peninsula War when Napoleon’s troops entered the city and women banged buckets in derision as they marched by.

The drumming and parades start at midnight in the Plaza de la Constitución with the izada (flag) of the city being raised and the first group of drummers  play the Marcha de San Sebastián as a signal to the other groups that they can start and that’s it for the next 24 hours.

At noon on January 20, children from various schools, also dressed to impress and with their own special ‘tamborrada infantil’ set off en route for the City Hall where they converge and add to the cacophony of sound.

The youngsters start at noon
Credit: Estitxu Carton flickr

Then at midnight the march is played again, the flag is lowered and that’s the end of La Tamborrada for another year, although there may be a few throats that are dry and need to be ‘watered’!

During the event, the person or organisation considered to have done he most to promote San Sebastian is awarded the Tambor de Oro (Golden Drum).

Women can now take part

Even though, it may have been women who started the drumming, it wasn’t until 1980 that they were allowed to participate in the parades.

Yet another of the many interesting and quirky celebrations that take place throughout the year in Spain.

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Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing newsdesk@euroweeklynews.com, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page www.facebook.com/EuroWeeklyNews