This weekend we celebrated Saint Valerius Day -Valero in Spanish- the patron of Zaragoza. More festivities! Long Live Spain! Hurray! Feliz día de San Valero, rosconero y ventolero ! (I’m flexing my linguistic skills). I said in my previous article that this post would be quirk… I’ll skip the conventional way of describing commemorations and just write it my own way (already grinning out of excitement). There I go!
Background story: Spain is an exclusively Catholic nation (official stats say 90% of the population, but truth is, many don’t really believe or they hardly go to church. Anyway… I’m just saying). The country is divided into different regions called “autonomous communities”. They are all independent, it kind of works like the federal states in the US. Each of them is also divided in provinces. So, I live in the autonomous community of Aragon, in the province of Zaragoza. Each province has a patron, which is a saint that is dedicated to them. So, Zaragoza’s patron is Valero, who was a bishop some centuries ago.
Personally, I have observed that religious events here don’t exactly hold a pious connotation among the population, especially the younger generations. They’re more perceived as an occasion to eat and be merry (99% party, 1% devotion). I was shocked that the biggest outdoor concerts are held at the city’s main square, right in front of the town’s biggest cathedral…
Why it is celebrated: Now, this funny. There are holidays where even the natives don’t know what the occasion is about. The feeling is just like: “Fiesta! Another day off! We get to stay home or hang out, hurray!”. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, here every good excuse is an approved reason to relax and lounge around. As a foreigner, I have fully adapted to the local habits…
So, I’ve been here for years, but I still don’t know why we celebrate San Valero. The only half-convincing answer I got was: “Oh, it’s because he’s our patron”. So I was like “yeah, what the heck did he do for that to happen, I mean, any great accomplishment?” I didn’t get any satisfying reply so I requested help from the greatest assistant of all times: the Internet. Thus; according to Wikipedia, he was a bishop, he got exiled, then he died somewhere else, then he got canonized (a.k.a, consecrated by the Church as a saint).
Long story short: I still didn’t get what he accomplished to receive that title…
Plot twist: After an eternity of research, I finally got more info on one of our local malls’ website , Gran Casa. In summary, I discovered that it was because he was a martyr who got persecuted for his faith under the roman emperor Diocletian.
Fun Fact: the natives came up with this comic motto for him: “San Valero, rosconero y ventolero!”. It means, on his day he brings a strong wind and also a lot of “roscon” (a typical dessert). It’s true somehow; apart from the dessert specially sold in pastry shops for the occasion, yesterday was very windy! By the way, Aragon is a mountainous region which is infamous for a strong and sudden wind gust called “Cierzo”. It blows unbelievably fast, all year long. A local joke says that in Zaragoza it’s no use to do your hair nicely and it’s dangerous to wear a skirt.
I have personally experienced the cranky mood of this ill-tempered wind. I was walking on the street one day; the Cierzo was blowing so strong that I couldn’t move forward because it kept pushing me in the opposite direction.
Special food: Spaniards make a special pastry or dessert for almost every holiday. Most of the time, it’s a “roscon”, a sort of big donut-looking bread filled with whipped cream and topped up with candied fruits. They made it for Reyes Magos (6th Jan.), for San Valero (29th Jan.), they’ll make some for Santa Agueda (5th Feb.) and then for Cincomarzada (5th March. It’s the same cake but they change the shape: the first two are donut-like, the third is shaped like a breast and the last one as a 5 (for now I’ll skip the story behind each of them).
How we spend the holidays:
For main holidays, concerts, parades or other cultural events are organized. If it’s a religious occasion, a huge procession is organized. For San Valero, they bake a huuuge, endless roscon and place it at Plaza del Pilar, Zaragoza’s main Square.
On apersonal level, Spaniards are highly social individuals. They usually gather among relatives for family lunches or meet up with friends. Thanks to their awesome culture, I have become an expert at improvised get-togethers. It’s easy: get some snacks, some drinks, a TV and call as many people as you can. Everyone brings something and we all share. The key to success: be in good company with fun people. (Important detail: here, it’s good manners to bring something with you to give to your host when you get invited somewhere! It can be food or drinks, or a dessert).
Not in the mood for socializing? No problem. My personal recipe: Stay home, eat your favourite food, binge-watch TV and sleep as much as you want. Repeat.
Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the holiday was pretty lowkey, but I was able to meet up with a friend. We wanted to go to the mall but got there too late so it was closed. We rather went for a stroll by the Ebro River (pictures below). The view was absolutely amazing and the weather so agreeable (aprox. 19°). We also enjoyed an small outdoor gallery designed by local artists to retrace the history of comics in Spain .
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article.
Stay safe, and see you in my next post!