Every year, two weeks after Semana Santa, comes the Feria de Sevilla. With a completely different atmosphere than Semana Santa, Feria is basically just a week long party, but still manages to be steeped in tradition. The official start is Monday at 12:00am, when they turn on all the lights, including the Portada, the giant gate which is different every year and which they spend months building. The fairgrounds are covered in “casetas” little booths/tents which families, companies, associations, or even political parties own. For this reason, it is well known (though little talked about) that the Feria is essentially a classist event, divided between those who can afford casetas or know someone who owns one, and those who do not have that luxury. Even so, I’m not going to say that I didn’t have a ton of fun.
My Feria experience started when I went with my roommates on Monday to see the fairgrounds lit up. After, we walked through the grounds a little, and my roommates made fun of me because I was just looking around everywhere, wide-eyed and mouth slightly open. It was amazing! The atmosphere was one of complete happiness and free of worry. There were people dining in their casetas, and, although very few people go dressed in flamenca the first night, there were already people dancing Sevillanas. Sevillanas are a song and dance style, the dance a little bit like a simpler flamenco (NOT flamenco, but influenced by it) and danced by pairs. The songs are usually very light and happy (unlike flamenco). Here’s a popular one:
Title loosely translated to “How attractive is Sevilla!” (As in, how attractive Sevilla is right now, no doubt about it!) Never said I’m an aspiring translator… Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you might be able to pick out some words like “casetas,” which I just explained, and some landmarks like the Giralda and Torre del Oro. After I the awe wore off a little, we headed home pretty early around 1:00, because we planned on returning the next night for a true Feria experience. It’s not uncommon for people to be at the Feria all night… in fact, the time the feria is the least crowded is around 11:00-1:00 in the morning, as people go home to take a nap and prepare to come back.
On Tuesday night around 10, we went back, armed with the traditional drink of Feria, called “rebujito.” Rebujitos are a mix of mazanilla or “fino” wine, (actually sherry) and lemon-lime soda, usually 7up although I don’t know how long 7up has been the official mixer. While Sevilla’s finest pay up to 12 Euro for a pitcher of rebujito in a caseta, Sevilla’s youth prefer to botellón, which was actually really fun because in the streets surrounding the entrance there were hundreds of Spaniards, which really made it like one giant party. Partly due to the incredible ambiance of Feria, and partly due to our trusty rebujitos, Feria was even more magical that night. We walked around a little, then I wanted to see the “Calle de Infierno” – or “Hell Street,” the area of Feria with all of the classic fair stuff – Ferris wheels, rides, games, etc. Supposedly this street is for kids but Ana and I went on the Ferris Wheel, which moved surprisingly fast but gave an incredible view over everything.
Next, we went to find the caseta that I had an invitation for. The mother of the girl I teach English to gave me an invitation to her company’s caseta – this is serious stuff. Most casetas have security guards and you cannot enter unless, if it’s a smaller one, the owner gives you permission, and if it’s a larger one, you have an invitation. Once inside, we hung out a little bit, as I tried my hand at “dancing” Sevillanas. Meaning someone asked if I wanted to dance, I insisted I didn’t know the moves, and I spun around a little bit like a fool, but still managing to enjoy myself. There was so much life! Everyone was literally dancing the night away, and it was visually impressive – women dressed in flamenco dresses, men in suits, everyone enjoying themselves, from babies to grandmas.
The next day, I went dressed traditionally in a flamenco dress. I had to borrow a dress from my English student, so it was a little short and not my favorite, but Flamenco dresses can cost hundreds of euros so I was not interested in buying one for one day. But the rich Sevillanas do just that! The normal folk might get a dress every few years, but it’s common, if you have the money, to go every day of Feria dressed in a different dress. A lot of the dresses have the traditional polkadots, but there is a wide variety of patterns and colors. There are even a few short flamenco dresses, but they didn’t seem to be too popular this year. My roomate also helped me out with a bun and I wore the traditional flower and earrings (although mine were smaller than my roommates’). It was fun seeing Feria by day! There were horse-drawn carriages going up and down the street, and the same festive atmosphere as the night before. However, I definitely had more fun Tuesday night. Perhaps because I was more comfortable in normal clothing, or maybe the magic of the night. Either way, Feria was a blast, and I’m so glad I got to experience it.
I’ll leave you with a video of my roommates dancing Sevillanas 🙂