The Festival of San Sebastian where Tradition and Tourism Meet

Wed, January 18th, 2012 - By Linda

It isn’t often that you come across a traditional, local festival smack-bang in the middle of a modern tourist area, but on January 20th 2012 at the Fiesta of San Sebastian in Adeje, that’s just what happens. Tenerife’s Costa Adeje has now grown to embrace the area around La Caleta, which used to be the harbour for the area in days of yore, when sugar and other crops were taken by mules and carts down to the coast for export.

As agriculture became less important, the festival was abandoned for a time, but recent years have seen a revival of folk traditions of all types throughout Spain, and especially in the Canary Islands. In addition to being a source of pride for local residents it has also become a huge tourist draw, attracting a crowd of over 30,000 in 2011 according to one source. Don’t let those numbers put you off if you’re not a fan of big crowds, there was plenty of room for all on or near the beach of La Enramada last year.

If you are in Adeje at 9am you can join a small band of walkers who follow the old trail worn years ago by farmers taking their goods down to the sea. I made this short pilgrimage last year.  It was a pleasant walk in good company, and I have only one word of advice – have a car on the coast for the return, it’s all uphill, and if you do it mid-afternoon, as I did, then it’s hot too! There were several other foreign residents, and we were made to feel at home, as with most traditional events here, strangers are always welcomed.

When we finally arrived at the church of San Sebastian in La Caleta I felt like a part of the festival, and not just an onlooker. Arriving mid-morning we found the kiosks already doing a brisk trade in empanadas, fried fish and hot dogs, as well as very cold, thirst-slaking beers. Afterwards, there was plenty of time to look around both churches, the modern one built in 1961, and the tiny, original one alongside, before going to stake out a place near the beach and await the arrival of the participants.

The main attraction of the day, and the crowd pleaser, is the bathing of farm animals in the ocean. San Sebastian is the saint in charge of warding off pests and plagues, so a blessing on your farm animals ensures them good health. Goats, sheep, horses and ponies are all herded, ridden or pulled into the briny for a symbolic cleansing before being blessed by the local priest. It’s an hour of chaos and humour enjoyed by spectators both on the beach and on the headland overlooking it.

La Caleta, lying on the coast below Adeje town, is an easy place to get to regardless of where in the south you’re staying, it’s a stroll along Geranium Walk from Playa de las Americas, and you can even take the longer walk from Los Cristianos, but if you come by road, it’s only about ten minutes or so. Even for those staying in the other direction, Playa San Juan, Puerto Santiago or Los Gigantes it’s not a long drive and it’s well worth it for some genuine local colour.

Posted : Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 at 4:07 pm
Category : festivals & carnivals
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2 Responses to “The Festival of San Sebastian where Tradition and Tourism Meet”

  1. […] the resumption of the path. This large beach becomes an annual gallop for horses and goats for the Fiesta of San Sebastian and the large mound at the end is a popular vantage point. Take the floral walkway off the beach […]

  2. […] Fiesta of San Sebastian at Playa Enramada is a sort of winter rehash of the Midsummer Fiestas de San Juan in Puerto de la […]

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