Category Archives: Carnaval

[Catching Up] Carnaval Take Two: Down comes the rain.

Nearly four days of almost total bed rest later I’m ready to start filling you all in on the last six weeks worth of adventures. Let’s go back to where I left off, Carnaval.

As you may remember, in Asturias there are two weekends for Carnaval, the last weekend before Lent and the real Carnaval, and the following weekend when Oviedo throws its own party.

By the second weekend of Carnaval I have to admit I just wasn’t feeling the motivation; the all-night dancing and freezing cold dawn Navia wanderings had taken their toll and I wasn’t feeling very well. So rather than hit up Carnaval with the other twentysomethings and repeat the partying and dress ups, I decided to enjoy the family-friendly version of Carnaval.

So I meandered down to the centre of Oviedo early in the evening to check out the parade of groups wearing fabulous, bright costumes. The parade finished at the Plaza de Alfonso II, otherwise called the Plaza de la Catedral, where there was a big stage set up for the costume competition, complete with D-grade local celebrities to judge (there was a female judge dressed up as a dominatrix I’m pretty sure, she was even prancing round with a riding crop… It was all kinds of weird). As the parade wound up the Plaza filled right up with people and the competition got under way. My personal favourite was the Oreo biscuits complete with box (typical of the sweet-tooth, right?).

However I didn’t ever find out if they won the group section as during that section the heavens opened. And properly opened. I have never seen such a large crowd dissipate so quickly! People were sheltering in doorways or under balconies from the heavy rain and rising puddles or braving it and getting drenched (that was me, I forgot my umbrella. Stupid, stupid thing to do; in Asturias you never ever leave the house without your umbrella!). Halfway home the thunder and lightning started and I experienced my first, albeit brief, Spanish thunderstorm.

All in all it was a fun evening, the effort that goes into the costumes is remarkable and the monetary value of the prizes likewise!

The Mythology Society even had a dragon

The Oreos

The Plaza de la Catedral starting to fill up




Filed under Asturias, Carnaval, Oviedo, Spain

Carnaval Take One: Dancing till dawn.

The first weekend of Carnaval, with nothing going on in Oviedo, I headed out to the Western side of Asturias for the first time to a pueblo (small town) called Navia. After a two hour bus ride I arrived in the seaside town to meet up with another language assistant who lives there.

Navia might be a fairly small town but for Carnaval it seems that everyone under 25 dresses up in outrageously good costumes and hits the town. I was very under-dressed in my peacock costume that entailed a mask with peacock feathers and green and blue clothes, if I’m ever in Spain for Carnaval again I will have to make much more effort. There were groups of girls dressed as Andalusian señoritas or Minnie Mouses, a couple dressed as Ken and Barbie (in boxes!), Lady Gagas with questionable genders, the whole cast of Grease, vampires and zombies, Wallys from Where’s Wally? books, super-heroes and the list goes on. A lot of the costumes are rented from shops, leading one of my private students, a 12-year-old boy, to very succinctly dismiss Carnaval as “una fiesta para los comercios” (a festival for the shops).

Still, it isn’t every day that you get to go to a “botellón” with a ninja! A botellón is when a huge crowd of young people meet in the street to stand around and drink alcohol they’ve brought from home. This is totally normal behaviour in Spain and happens every weekend, rain, shine or freezing temperatures, such as the weekend of Carnaval. I sometimes wonder how bars and clubs make enough money to survive, because at last count I have bought a grand total of three drinks at such establishments and have very rarely seen anyone at the bar of a club. Instead, everyone is outside at the botellón drinking their “calimocho” or “tinto de verano”, red wine mixed with cola or lemonade respectively. No, I am not joking.

Once everyone was sufficiently lubricated at the botellón, and we had frozen half to death, we eventually made our way to the real fiesta: a former cinema turned into a night club for Carnaval, DJ and cheap drinks included. Considerably warmer, we danced the night away, only pausing to watch the costume competition. They give out real money as prizes to the best costumes for individuals, pairs and groups, and I was starting to understand all the effort with the costumes! The music was good, some apparently universal English-language classics and some Spanish party classics thrown in together. The stamina of the Spanish when partying is quite something to behold, the place was packed until about 6am, and when we left a bit after 7am there were still quite a few people going for it and bartenders dancing on the makeshift, trestle table bars. When in Spain, party like a Spaniard, and dance till it’s light outside.

The next day, after grabbing a couple of hours sleep, I got to see Navia by daylight. My friend showed me around and we went down to the beach to enjoy the sunshine and warmth. I feel really glad to still be living quite close to the sea, and the coastline up here is gorgeous. In Navia the beaches are mostly at the feet of small cliffs, one little bay actually reminded me a lot of Green Bay at home in Port Elliot. Navia is also on a river and has beautiful views of the hills around it.

That evening I took the bus back to Oviedo, catching up on some sleep as I did so, and started wondering what I would wear to Carnaval Take Two the following weekend.



Filed under Asturias, Carnaval, Navia, Spain

Do Catholics have more fun?

Do Catholics have more fun? By Catholics I don’t so much mean practising Catholics as lapsed Catholics living in countries with a culture that is heavily dominated by its Catholic heritage. Spain, for instance.

Take this example, what do we do in Australia to mark the beginning of Lent? We eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day for the less religious), if you’re more devout maybe go to church for Ash Wednesday and decide on something to give up for Lent. But that’s it. In Spain (and, of course, other countries such as Italy and Brazil) the weekend before the beginning of Lent means Carnaval. Read: street parades, costumes, massive parties till dawn.

Taking these celebrations even further, in Asturias, there are two weekends of Carnaval. The first is on the actual weekend before Lent, and it is celebrated all over the region but the biggest parties are in Gijón and Avilés. Apparently everyone started leaving Oviedo for the weekend to go to the other two cities for Carnaval, resulting in a rather boring, quiet Carnaval. But this is Spain and there couldn’t possibly be a boring fiesta somewhere! So, Oviedo decided to move its Carnaval to the following weekend. Yes, the excessive partying and merriment (and in some quarters, drinking) now fall during Lent, the period of reflection, sobriety and preparation for Easter. See what I mean about lapsed Catholics?

Now that you’ve had an introduction to the idea of Carnaval I’ll be writing up my stories from the two weekends of fiestas this week. Look out for stories of all-night dancing, costume competitions and pouring rain in the next few days!


Plaza de la Catedral - the end of the parade


Filed under Carnaval, Mi vida española, Pensamientos, Spain