NOTE. In times of Madame Corona, a lot of things have been cancelled, including the military parade (for sure). Have not seen info on the Cervantes week in Alcalá nor the fabulous sheep in the streets day, but quite likely both will also be cancelled. I will try to find info and post here, just take note of these yearly events if you will be here in 2021.
El Pilar in Madrid. The Pilar Virgin is Spain’s patron saint – the main fiesta is in Zaragoza, but Madrid has some things too: Madrid’s Pilar neighborhood has fiestas http://www.barriodelpilar.com/fiestas.htm AND there’s a special Aragonese style mass at Santa Cruz church. I have never attended this mass, but guessing that some people will attend in typical dress and they may include some of the Zaragoza rituals of offering flowers and vegetables, which I’ve always viewed as sort of a harvest celebration. Where and when: PENDING DETAILS FOR 2020, but based on past schedules probably Santa Cruz church at Atocha 6 (Metro Sol) on October 12 around 11 – 11.30.
Military parade: Traditional event in Madrid, though has undergone some changes in recent years due to budget issues and political changes. This event usually includes most divisions of the Armed Forces, horses, armored vehicles, planes and helicopters. It will be crowded, so plan your strategy for getting there and getting away, especially if you have kids; parking lots nearby will probably be full or closed for security. Good to have a plan B and emergency meeting place, too, just in case (maybe front door of Centro Centro in Cibeles?),and remember that this will tie up city center for most of the morning, so don’t plan to drive anywhere in a hurry. Where and when: PENDING DETAILS FOR FUTURE but parade usually does some part of the Castellana between Plaza de Lima and Colon, shorter or longer depending on the year’s schedule. October 12, USUALLY starts about 10.30-11AM and goes north to south. Website (still showing last year at end of September) http://www.defensa.gob.es/12octubre/
Semana Cervantina / Cervantes Week: Themed cultural week in Alcalá de Henares, city near Madrid and birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, 16-17th C. writer, author of the Quijote. Includes a market and cultural events. Where and when: Alcalá de Henares, northeast of Madrid, easy access by train and bus if you don’t want to drive. Dates / info should be at these two sites: Program at http://www.mercadocervantino.es/ and maybe additional info at http://www.semanacervantina.com/home/index.php
Sheep in the Streets! This is a must-see: calle Mayor, Puerta de Sol and calle Alcalá with a flock of sheep, people in traditional dress playing instruments and dancing in the street, big dogs and lots of horses. Fun for kids and their associated grown-ups! They’ll probably go through corner Bailen – Mayor around 11.30AM. But remember: get there a little early, it’s fun to see the pre-event, while people in traditional dress wait for the sheep to arrive and the parade to start up calle Mayor. And be ready for some delays, sheep run on their own schedule.
Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day, November 1) Halloween is not a traditional holiday in Spain, though it has gained popularity in recent years. But All Saints’ Day is a national holiday, when many people visit cemetaries to care for the graves of loved ones. This is’t as big a deal as in Mexico, but as a national holiday you should keep it in mind when making any plans. Typical sweets for this holiday in Madrid: huesos del santo (saint’s bones), cylinders about two inches long with different kinds of filling and buñuelos de viento (puff-ball fritters, about the size of a doughnut hole). In Cataluña,Valencia and Balearic islands panellets are frequent, a kind of small cookie that comes in many shapes and flavors; some good pastry shops in Madrid also have these sweets.
Virgen de la Almudena (Our Lady of the Almudena) Madrid’s female patron saint, celebrated on November 9. La Almudena is the official female patron, though the unofficial patron La Paloma is more popular, partly because La Paloma’s mid-August date is much better for street parties (La Latina neighborhood). The Almudena legend is wonderful – hear it on the Wall Walk – and this is a frequent name for women in Madrid. Like our male patron saint San Isidro, La Almudena day November 9 is a holiday only in Madrid city, not in other nearby towns or cities unless they are considered part of Madrid. Celebrations usually include a procession near the Cathedral on calle Bailen (next to the Royal Palace) and often an outdoor Mass in the Plaza Mayor – but if you’d like to attend either, you should be on weather watch as either or both might cancel if weather is unfriendly.