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Folklore and Traditions: From the End of Lent to Summer Solstice
Taken from "Folklore and Traditions", one of the series of "The Basque Country, Come and then pass the word" 2nd edition, January 1993 Author: Angel Murua, Published by: Gobierno Vasco, Departamento de Comercio, Consuma, y Turismo. Viceconsejeria de Turismo.
From the End of Lent to the Summer Solstice
Once Easter Week is over, the most sober and the strictest period of the year, Lent, comes to an end. Local traditional festivals do not interfere with this. In some places in Alava - Moreda de Alava, Salinas, or Samaniego, for example - Easter week becomes a show, in which dummies representing Judas are dragged through the village streets and burned as a punishment for their betrayal of Christ.
At the beginning of May, round about Santa Cruz's Day, Legazpi commemorates the miracle which took place on 3rd May, 1580 in the Mirandola Foundry - the oldest still in existence. On that day, Providence punished those who, instead of observing the feast of Santa Cruz, went to work as usual, by reducing to a tiny cross all the iron that they had so laboriously forged. Nowadays the feast of Santa Cruz is commemorated with an ezpatadantza and every year on the first Sunday after 3rd May, the foundry is set going for a few hours.
In Arrastaria, on 9th May every year, the villagers renew a vow made to the Virgin of Orduña some four hundred years ago, all making a pilgrimage to her Sanctuary. Once the vow is renewed, all the males, one by one, intrepret the Entradillas, a curious ritual dance.
The celebration of Corpus Christi, in June, also gives rise to some spectacular events such as the Corpus of Oñati, the historic town situated down below the Arantzazu sanctuary. The Oñati procession gives us the chance to see a magnificent statue which makes its way round the town amid guild-members, dances, etc. Marquinez too celebrates Corpus Christi, with a procession accompanied by the Fraternity of the Most Holy Sacrament, a former Mediaeval brotherhood of defence which today walks by armed with arches decorated with flowers.
As summer approaches the number of romerias increases. These are local country fiestas usually connected to sanctuaries and hermitages, in which villagers honour their patron saints.
One of the most spectacular is the romeria of San Antonio, in Urkiola, held on 13th June, to which thousands of people flock. They ask the Saint to protect their animals from harm, or, in many cases, to put an end to their unwanted spinster - or bachelorhood.
Whilst the pre-Christian rites of the winter solstice faded out on being absorbed by the Christmas fiestas, the summer solstice remained as strong as ever. At this time the old traditions of purification, and the exaltation of summer and light, are resuscitated with new vigour. On the magic night of the summer solstice, the night of Saint John, thousands of bonfires are lit in all of the villages, hamlets, and country houses in the Basque Country. An enormous number of communities hold their patron saint's day fiestas on the feast of Saint John, although it is perhaps those of Tolosa which are the most highly colourful occasions, with their "corridas" (when bulls are let loose on a route through the streets), processions, original town dances such as the Bordon Dantza, and a review of arms, amongst other things.
And after Saint John comes Saint Peter. In Lekeitio, for example, Saint Peter's Day gives rise to a traditional fiesta in which a dantzari dances on a large chest or kutxa borne n the shoulders of his companions: this is the Kaxarranka. In the last days of June we can also see the Dantzari Dantzak in Berriz, dances with swords or poles, common in the Duranguesado area of Bizkaia.
The End of Lent, Spring, and the Summer Solstice
Oñati: Corpus Christi Procession and the Korpus Dantzak. Sunday after Thursday of Corpus Christi. In the morning there are dances and a procession, and in the afternoon and evening there are dances in the town square.
Legazpi: Starting up the Mirandaola Foundry. Sunday after 3rd May, mid-morning.
Orduña: The "Eighths of May", in honour of the Virgin Mary, 8th May.
Urkiola Sanctuary: Romeria, from early morning, 13th June, Saint Anthony - patron saint of single people.
Tolosa: Bordon Dance of Saint John, 24th June. Starts first thing in the morning. A procession, a volley of shots and dances in the morning, and Aurresku in Igarondo meadow in the afternoon.
Laguardia: Dances and flying of the flag in the morning, 24th June.
Lekeitio: Kaixarranka, Eguzki Dantza or the women's SOka Dantza, 29th June, from 11am onwards, in various parts of the town.
Berriz: Dantzari Dantza, 29th June and 2nd July, in the morning.
Azpeitia: Procession of San Ignacio, 1st August in the morning from Azpeitia to Loiola Sanctuary.