Carnival in Bilbao
On March 7 we visited Bilbao, Spain in the heart of Basque country to celebrate the annual Carnival, a festival observed by Roman Catholics around the world. It is similar to the festivities of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and other parts of the United States. Each region in Spain celebrates Carnival in its own way. Bilbao is slightly different than the rest of Spain, because most of the people that live there are Basque, the indigenous people of Spain. The Basque people have their own distinctive language and their own unique way of life. In Bilbao many people dressed up in costumes and carried candles. There were three “mechanical monsters” that fought each other, while traveling throughout the city. In the center of the contest was a sacred fish that the monsters fought over. Many people followed the staged fight around the city. Everyone was very festive, open and friendly. We were joking around with some of the natives and discussing what they thought of Carnival. They explained how they loved Carnival and looked forward to it every year. Many of them put on face paint and dress up their children. The costumes range from devils to princesses. Many of the stores were closed so that everyone could take part in Carnival. I cannot imagine the stores in New York City closing with most of the population right outside of their door. At the end of the walk around the city, the sacred fish was burned to symbolize the beginning of Lent. Celebrating Carnival in Spain was something I was really looking forward to seeing. It was an unforgettable experience to celebrate a holiday so central to the Spanish culture.