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Who are the Olentzero and Mari Domingi?

23/12/2019 |

Olentzero and Mari Domingi are the reason for the sparkle in the eyes of many girls and boys during the Christmas season in Tolosa (and throughout the Basque Country). They are the Basque mythological characters who bring gifts to our homes on Christmas Day. Their representation has evolved over the years, although the tradition will never change.


Olentzero is represented as a fat man, dirty with coal (he works as a coalman) who lives in the forest. His arrival is related to the winter solstice celebrations, although Christianity also turned the custom to its own purposes: Olentzero announces the news of the birth of Jesus. 

The character of Mari Domingi was hardly known until only a few years ago, but today in most towns and villages the female figure accompanies Olentzero during the procession.



During the Christmas period boys and girls don farmers’ or baserritarra outfits and take to the streets (also going round the houses) to fulfil the tradition of singing Basque carols and songs dedicated to Olentzero and Mari Domingi.   

The story of Olentzero and Mari Domingi has survived over the years, adapting to periods and beliefs, but there is one factor which unites those who relate them to mythology and those who relate them to religion: magic. In fact boys and girls behave well all year round as they think about the present they will ask for in their Christmas letter. 


Both Olentzero and Mari Domingi will arrive in Tolosa on December 24 and will make their way round the streets of the Old Town at 18:00 in the afternoon. VIdeo of a special momentu during the parade: