The Tarasca & Feast of Corpus Christi


June 8, 2020

Some days ago we talked about curious festivities in Spain. Today, we will show you a new festivity which originated in the Middle Ages and is still part of our culture. A dragon? A mannequin? 

It is widely recognized that Spain is a country with unique cultural traditions. We love festivities and sharing our free time with our family and friends. Sometimes, weekends are not enough to enjoy our free time. For this reason, in Spain we have what we call puentes or long weekends.

When a public holiday falls on Sunday, we move this holiday to a working day (Monday). Sometimes, if the public holiday falls on Tuesday or Thursday, we organize long weekends so that we can have some more days to ‘rest’.

Certain traditions have fixed days in the calendar (e.g. International Worker’s Day, Christmas, etc.) while others vary depending on the liturgical calendar followed. This is the case of the Tarasca and the Feast of Corpus Christi, which are celebrated 60 days after Easter.

In Granada, we always celebrate these days on Wednesday and Thursday respectively with a long weekend (May-June). Although both are considered Christian liturgical solemnities, most people celebrate them as civil festivities with no religious connotations. Processions, masses, and parades are very popular as part of the liturgical season, but we celebrate these days in a different way. Let’s see what you can see and do!

The Tarasca

The word Tarasca comes from the French Tarasque, which is related to Tarascon, a town in southern France. It refers to a mythological creature whose origins can be found in a legend about Saint Martha.

According to legend, the creature inhabited the area of Tarascon and devastated the landscape far and wide. It was a sort of a hybrid dragon made of parts of other animals (lion, bear, ox, turtle, and scorpion attributes). The king of Tarascon attached the dragon without success. One day, Saint Martha visited the town and charmed the beast with her prayers, and returned with the beast tamed. At night, the inhabitants attacked the creature and killed it. Then Saint Martha preached a sermon to the people and many of them converted to Christianity. To commemorate her feat, people began to carry the figure of a monster chained at the feat of a lady in a yearly processional march.

Although that legend seems to be the origin of this festivity, there are no official sources supporting this. In fact, Granada and Antequera are the only cities celebrating this day in Andalusia.

In Granada, the Tarasca always fall on Wednesday and schools are closed so that children can go to the parade which takes place at mid-morning. In that parade, you can see the Tarasca, a figure representing a lady on a dragon which symbolizes good and evil. The Tarasca is the best-kept secret in Granada since the dress worn by the lady shows the latest fashion, colors, and trends of the year. It is true that most people never like the dress and that is why we say ir peor vestido que la Tarasca (to be dressed worse than the Tarasca). Despite that, it is an honor for a local designer or professional dressmaker to be called upon to dress the most popular fashion model in the city. This lady parades through the city streets every year surrounded by giants, cabezudos (big heads), and little devils. After the parade, she is exhibited at the entrance of the Granada City Hall and people can see it the whole year.

The dresses worn by the Tarasca have always followed the trends and styles adopted in the last centuries. However, we have recently called her our Khaleesi since one year her designer decided to use a blond wig with a medieval-style dress.

What can I see or do this day?

  • Be at the parade
  • Criticize the dress
  • Avoid being attacked by the big heads with their bladder balloons
  • Eat caramel-coated peanuts
  • Have some tapas

The Feast of Corpus Christi

This day we can do two different things: stay at the city center and have tapas with our friends while listening to flamenco music or go to the fairground and enjoy the real Corpus.

If you decide to be at the city center, then you must wear your best clothes and be ready to dance and laugh for 24 hours. Most bars and restaurants are open and streets and squares are crowded of people having fun and dancing, eating churros, or even riding horses. Streets are decorated with traditional posters, lanterns, and flowers. You have to be careful since many streets may be covered with wax from the candles used in the processions. You can slip very easily!

However, the real Corpus is not at the city center. In Granada, the recinto ferial (fairground) is placed on the outskirts of the city, near the Bus Station. This area is known as Almanjáyar. Although this area is only used by driving schools and street markets the rest of the year, during the Corpus, it becomes the heart of the city: the place where fun and tradition go hand in hand.

The main entrance of the fairground is always crowded. People meet there to take a photo at the portada or monumental colorful façade, which represents one of the monuments of the city and is decorated with thousands of light bulbs. The monument chosen is normally used for one or several years.

Children and (most adults) love this place. You can see and hear the sounds of the different attractions and smell and taste the sweetest cotton candy. If you prefer salty snacks, you can order some roast potatoes too! Some of the most popular attractions are el tren de la bruja (ghost train), la casa del terror (haunted house), la montaña rusa (roller coaster), la noria (Ferris wheel), or los coches de choque (bumper cars).

Young people love this place since you can enjoy the attractions and party at the same time. We have our well-known casetas (marquees) where you can have a drink, eat some traditional food, and even dance both traditional and modern music. Each marquee has a different music style and you can join them depending on the type of party or group that is organizing the event. Some may be private parties and an invitation will be required. People normally have French fries, sandwiches, cold meat, sweet wine, and olives.

Traditions are always welcome during this festivity and most people –especially women– dress on the typical regional dresses. Each year, these dresses are completely different since the Andalusian traditional dress is the only regional costume which adapts to the trends and colors proposed by designers. People also dance el baile de la reja (dance of the grill) which is the traditional group dance of the region of Granada.

What can I see or do this day?

  • Visit the fairground
  • Dance flamenco
  • Ride on different attractions
  • Wear a traditional dress or costume
  • Taste some roast potatoes
  • Have fun!