At first it may sound a bit odd: “National Day of Galicia”. Although it’s called an autonomous state within Spain, the region is not an independent state. Nevertheless, the regions yearly public holiday officially named as “Día Nacional de Galicia“. The day is also know as ‘Día da Patria Galega’ or just Día de Galicia.
History: since when? And why on the 25th of July?
Officially the holiday is recognized since 1979, but the tradition of the feast last longer. The first time the day of Galicia was celebrated was in 1920.
The date of July 25th was chosen because it’s the day of Saint James (Santiago). In Spain the holy days are still very popular, the days are also so-called ‘name day’s’, days when to celebrate everybody who’s named after the saint of that day.
During the Franco era the National Day of Galicia became forbidden, just as speaking the Galician language. But after Franco died the regime became less strict and from 1968 celebrating the national day was tolerated. And finally in 1979 it became an official public holiday.
Since 1979 it’s the official day of Galicia and widely celebrated, although politics never are far away in Spain. If you look at France, the day of July 14th (quatorze juillet) is intensely celebrated by everybody, just as July 4th (Independence day) in the United States. In Spain however it continues to be a sensitive topic. Even nowadays!
In Spain’s autonomous regions, like Galicia, you will find separatist, who rather see the region as an independent state, and hispanophiles, who embrace the Spanish culture. Luckily the Galicians found a solution to avoid politics: the separatists celebrate intensely the ‘Día da Patria Galega’, while more Spanish minded people just keep it as the catholic day of Saint James. And this way everybody has a party, and you as a tourist can be part of it!
How to celebrate the National Day of Galicia?
What do you think of when thinking about July 14th in France? Exactly: fireworks! Galicia isn’t different. The yearly holiday is celebrated with fireworks. In the main cities you can expect big and professional shows, but also in the smaller authentic villages they will raise some fires. And off course on the many beaches of Galicia! What a setting! For example on the city beach of Riazor in A Coruña.
Just a small advice from my part, make sure you are well rested. Parties in Galicia start late, on midnight it’s still early…
Non stop party in Santiago de Compostela
The biggest party you’ll find in Santiago de Compostela. July 25th is not only the National Day of Galicia, it’s also the day of Saint James, in other words Santiago. Two reasons to celebrate for Galicia’s capital!
In Galicia the celebration is not limited to just one day, but will take place during almost two entire weeks! The party peaks on the night from 24th till 25th of July. This night there’s a big spectacle on the Plaza de Obradoire, the city’s main square. You will find the square occupied by tens of thousands of people. And what to expect? Fireworks off course, but also an visual spectacle.
Are you around Santiago on this date? Resist the crowds and be part of it, you will not regret it!
Xacobeo, the anniversary edition
When July 25th takes place on a Sunday it’s called an anniversary year, an Año Xacobeo. This happens in a cycle of 5, 6 and 11 year. And in those years the party is celebrated even bigger in Santiago de Compostela!
In the Xacobeo years it’s also more crowded in the city. Every year many pelgrims make their pelgrimage to Santiago, but in the Xacobeo years they multiply.
The Xacobeo is a special year, an holy year. In those years the Puerta Santa (holy door) of the Cathedral opens for pelgrims. At the end of the year the door closes again and will not reopen until a new Xacobeo.
The last Xacobeo is some years ago. We are now in the long 11 year interval. The last Xacobeo was in 2010 and the next will be in 2021.
When I studied in Santiago I had the luck of facing a Xacobeo year. Although I didn’t realised it then, I still remember the New Year’s Eve when the Xacobeo year started!