Ya Huele a Feria

The most wonderful time of the year. In Sevilla, that’s not Christmas but Feria de Abril. Sevilla’s spring festival, dating back to 1847, began livestock-trading fair but has evolved into a week of parties, flamenco dresses, flowers atop heads, horses, sevillana dancing, rebujito drinking, tapas eating, carnival rides, casetas, and pure fun.

Feria 2012 by day

I had my first brush with Sevilla’s Feria in 2010, when I took a bus from Madrid down to Sevilla for a day to get in on what I had heard was an unbelievably fun and quintessentially Spanish experience. But I wasn’t prepared for just how fabulous it truly was. From then on, I was fixated on the idea of returning to Spain for Feria and began seriously entertaining the idea of coming back to live in Sevilla one day. This past year, I made that a reality! I can honestly say that Feria was a significant factor in my decision to teach in Andalucía.

All year long, I was anxious for Feria to arrive. Wanting to experience the festival fully, I purchased two used flamenco dresses from a teacher at my colegio and did some intensive complementos (accessories) shopping. I could not wait to dress up. Finally, Sevilla began getting warmer and the city filled with the scent of orange blossoms, which could only mean one thing: Feria was here!

Finally decked out in one of my trajes de flamenca!

Feria kicks off with El Alumbrado, the lighting ceremony, in which the entire city packs the streets around the fairgrounds and the 24,000 lightbulbs of the portada (a giant, decorated gate at the entrance of the fairgrounds) are lit for the first time. My friends and I observed the ceremony, then hurried back to wake up early for work the next morning, dreams of Feria filling our heads.

With friends at the Alumbrado, the portada already alumbrada

The following week was a whirlwind celebration. The fairgrounds are filled with casetas, large tents that are owned by families, friends, clubs, neighborhoods, or political parties. Inside each are dance floors, flamenco music, bars, tables, and lots and lots of food and drinks — especially rebujito, a refreshing mix of 7UP and manzanilla wine. A few are open to the public, like those belonging to political parties (the vibe of each is amusingly reflective of the party: the conservative PP’s caseta is elegant and highbrow, while the communist party’s caseta is youthful and inexpensive), but most are private. That means you need to know someone (or know someone who knows someone) to get in.

Revelers of all ages dancing the night away in a caseta

Between the casetas of people I knew, casetas of people friends knew, and casetas of people random people I met at Feria knew, I had a blast caseta-hopping, partaking in un montón de (sometimes free!) tapas and rebujito. One thing I did fail at, however, was dancing. No surprise there. One of Feria’s key ingredients is dancing sevillanas, a flamenco-like style of music and dance. There are four sevillanas, consecutive choreographed numbers, that everyone in Andalucía seems to know from birth, but, aside from a few brief indiscretions, I kept my two left feet off the dance floor and stuck to observing.

Drinking rebujito in a caseta

Sevillanas. I’ll leave it to the Spaniards.

On the non-caseta side of Feria lies La Calle del Infierno (the creepily-named “Street of Hell”), which is basically like any county fair you’d find in the U.S., complete with unstable-looking rides and greasy fair food. This year, I abstained from the rides, although I did venture over there for some mouthwatering buñuelos, fried balls of dough that we got smothered in chocolate.

Buñuelos and Ferris wheels in Calle del Infierno. My friend from college, Karen, who was studying in Valencia, visited for Feria (and borrowed my dress, if it looks familiar!)

As insanely excited as I was for Feria to arrive, between the chilly, rainy weather, the painful heels and heavy dresses, the dehydration, and the almost 5-mile round-trip walk from my house to my friend’s apartment to the fairgrounds, a few days in, we were all exhausted. We didn’t attend every day of Feria like I had initially planned, but we still definitely got a ton of fabulous Feria time in.

It all came to an end with beautiful fireworks over the river. After smiling my way through the show and bidding farewell to my friends, I walked away from the twinkling Guadalquivir River, past the ancient, looming Sevilla Cathedral, through the dim-lit, windy cobblestone city streets, and back to my quirky, typically Andalucían house, madly in love with magnificent Sevilla.

A beautiful end to a beautiful week

Is it Feria 2013 yet?

6 Responses

  1. Hi Kirstie! As always you look beautiful! I love the excitement and colorfulness that shows in your pictures1 You know how I love Fairs. This one outdoes all that I’ve been to! No wonder ours seemed so boring and simple! The way you describe it all is fantasic. You aways have me right there! Thank you so much! I love you! Gammy

  2. Joani Arciniega says:

    How wonderful it all sounds! I would love to go and live in another country like Spain but family life ( Kids, Grandkids, Parents , etc… ) keeps us here. Maybe someday!! Please send me your blogs if I am not on your list. It was nice seeing you before you left, better circumstance’s would have been nice. Take care of yourself!
    Love you!
    Aunt Joani

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