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The Carnivals of Tolosa

The Carnivals of Tolosa are urban carnivals and among the most famous in the Basque Country. They attract people from all the towns of the Basque Country.

In addition to the carnival costumes, they encompass all the elements of Basque festivals, such as crews, the tamborrada (drum procession), musical bands, parades, the soka-muturra (Basque bull herding tradition), gastronomy and the rocket launch. During Franco’s dictatorship, these were the only popular carnivals allowed in the Southern Basque Country, although under the name of the Spring Festival.

The Carnivals of Tolosa day by day

  • The rocket launch on Wednesday night: the men and women of Tolosa gather in Plaza Triangulo at midnight. They also gather before the start of the carnival in order to celebrate its arrival accompanied by musical bands.
  • Fat Thursday: is the most significant day. In the morning, following a brief lunch, the men and women of Tolosa head to the town hall, in order to see the rocket launch in a festive atmosphere. In the afternoon, it is customary to go see bullfights, to welcome in the first day of bullfights. At night, young people usually have dinner with their crew.
  • Thin Friday: it is the quietest day. In the morning, you can see a pasacaglia of people playing chistus (type of fipple flute), and in the afternoon, boys and girls can enjoy young bulls and ponies in the bullring.
  • Carnival Saturday or Eve of Carnival Sunday (Zaldunita bezpera): children and adults celebrate lively and noisy drum processions. In the morning, the giants and big-heads take to the Old Quarter of Tolosa. In the afternoon, boys and girls hold their drum procession along the town streets. On Saturday there are no bullfights (it is the only day when there are none). At night, the main drum procession heads out, that of the adults, accompanied by the Cossack dancers.
  • Carnival Sunday (Zaldunita): is the other big day of the Carnival. The reveille is sounded at eight in the morning, and people begin to gather. From early on in the day, musical bands liven up the atmosphere in the streets of the town. In the afternoon, the men and women of Tolosa head to the bullring, to enjoy the bullfights. During the entire day, you can see carriages created by the residents of Tolosa. Some parade, and others have a fixed location.
  • Carnival Monday (Astelehenita): the men and women from Tolosa and people from nearby villages gather in the town. Throughout the day, leisure groups from Tolosa and the surrounding towns stage parades and dances. There are also soka-muturra (Basque bull tradition) and bullfights.
  • Carnival Tuesday (Asteartita): this is the last day. It begins at 6 am, with the dawn song. Two hours later, at 8 am, the toro de aguardiente (brandy bull) is unleashed. The spectacle is attended by the young people who have enjoyed the night and many other people of many different ages. After the soka-muturra (Basque bull herding), the carnival troupes and carriages come out, and parade throughout the morning and afternoon. To finish, at midnight, the Burial of the Sardine takes place.

Further information: Carnivals of Tolosa
Videos of the Carnivals