In August, Madrid celebrates its most traditional fiestas: San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Paloma
The Madrileños dress up in chulapo suits (traditional period clothes) and dance the chotis in the streets. The most traditional areas of the capital, such as Lavapies, La Latina or las Vistillas, are decorated to celebrate the fiestas of San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and la Paloma. During daytime there are processions dedicated to the Madonna and the saints, and at night open-air festivities that last several days with the participation of the public at large.
The neighbours and traders of Madrid's most traditional neighbourhoods still observe the old custom of decorating the streets where the festivities mostly take place, and every year the Municipal Committee gives a prize to the most attractive façade, street, balcony and urban ensemble.
Men and women between the ages of 16 and 40 can stand for election as the characters from the popular zarzuela operetta La Verbena de la Paloma: La Casta, La Susana, Don Hilarión (older gentlemen can compete for this character) and El Julián; as well as the Maja of Lavapiés.
Street fairs, popular races, mus (a card game) and rana (a coin throwing game) championships, marching bands, lemonade, children's games, sangria, hot chocolate, dance and organ music, Manila shawl competitions, sardines, secrets, churros, elections to choose the child chulapa and chulapo (girl or boy dressed in traditional local attire), concerts... These are just some of the activities organised within the framework of these festivals for all the family.
Together with the activities mentioned above, there are of course also religious ceremonies. The first festival is that of San Cayetano, around the Plaza de Cascorro and surrounding streets, and which culminates with the procession of the saint on August 7. The neighbours dive upon this protector of pregnant women to get hold of a carnation, as legend has it that he concedes bread and work to whoever manages to gather the most flowers.
On August 10, the Lavapiés quarter celebrates the San Lorenzo festival. Nowadays, worshipping this 3rd century martyr is very popular and the procession carries an image of this patron supported on a platform, in turn carried on a float.
Finally, on August 15, the festival the Madrileños most revere: the festivities of the Virgen de la Paloma. This festival dates back to 1787, the year in which the canvas by Isabel Tintero, a Madrid woman who initially hung the painting in the doorway of her home in Calle de la Paloma, was found.
In 1796 a first chapel was built, but owing to the huge devotion amongst the neighbourhood, in 1912 the present day church was inaugurated. On August 15, the day of the big festival, the traditional ‘taking down of the painting of the Virgin' takes place, performed by members of the Fire Brigade; this is the most long-awaited moment, when the faithful voice their compliments and reveries at the painting until it is time for the procession.
The San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and Virgen de la Paloma festivals reflect the Madrid spirit. These are the festivals in which the highest number of people participate, and there are many residents who are new to the neighbourhood who live the festivals as if they were their own.
This effort to respect different cultures and encourage cohabitation can be seen in the posters, which are also produced in Arabic and Chinese to cater for the large North African and Oriental communities that live in the central neighbourhoods of the city. Multicultural communities, devotion, joy, culture, customs and tradition join forces to celebrate Madrid's most traditional festivals.
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