Galicia is a land of magic and mystery, and what better time than carnival to prove it. The carnival (rather, the many carnivals) of Galicia has its own rituals and calendars, whose origins date back, in some cases, to time immemorial, well before even Roman domination. Some authors speak of Celtic origins or Druidic rituals in many of the Galician carnivals, but the truth is that they have been celebrated “forever.”
Prohibited during the Franco regime due to the “public disorders” that it implied, the carnival in Galicia never ceased to be celebrated, having maintained its own cultural tradition that is transmitted from generation to generation. Carnival is the feast of excess, provocation and mockery, as in many other carnivals in different parts of the world, but in Galicia it is also a party full of color, traditional costumes and masks and, of course, deeply linked to the gastronomy.
Known in Galician as entroido or antroido (depending on the area), each town and village has its specific carnival variants. Of the hundreds of different carnivals held in Galicia, eight of them have been declared as festivals of international tourist interest, precisely the most colorful and deeply rooted in the Galician cultural tradition. These are the following:
Xinzo de Limia Carnival (Ourense)
The “screens” are the stars of this carnival. These ancestral characters roam the town, striking two bladders of animals, dry and swollen like balloons, imposing their law, while ringing the bells that they wear at the waist. Your mission is to ensure that everyone goes in disguise. You are advised: if you visit Xinzo de Limia at carnival and you are not dressed up, you will have to invite one of the screens to wine.
These masks have an uncertain origin. Crafted, they represent devilish but benevolent figures: screens are forbidden to touch anyone.
The Xinzo de Limia is the longest carnival cycle in all of Spain, since it starts on Sunday Fareleiro (three before Carnival Sunday) and ends with Piñata Sunday, although the big day is Tuesday of Entroido, when it has place the parade of floats and parades, led by a large group of “screens.” Of course, during all these days the party, the drink and the abundant food are assured.
Considered as the oldest carnival in Galicia, its most colorful characters are the so-called peliqueiros, who wear masks with a mocking smile, topped by a kind of miter in which drawings of animals are painted (other motifs were used, such as the Sun , the Moon or human figures.The peliqueiros carry a whip or a cane with which they mock whomever crosses their path, and a belt with cow bells that do not stop sounding while they dance.
In addition, there is another unique character at the Laza carnival: the Morena cow. This is a character who wears a cow mask made of wood and chases women, while others who accompany her throw flour and ants to the public. All this washed down with wine, food, drinks and lots of parties, including a parade of floats and carnival parades where imagination and mockery are the queens.
Verin Carnival (Ourense)
As in Laza, Verín also has very similar characters to the peliqueiros, except that here they are called cigarettes. One of the characteristics of this carnival, which also occurs in other carnivals in Galicia, is known as “Thursday of Comadres”, in which men must be at home before midnight and women perform a procession carrying candles, dressed in white and accompanied by cigarettes, to the balcony of the Carnival Queen, where the proclamation takes place, characterized by satire and burlesque tone.
These characters are also present at another carnival in Galicia of tourist interest: the Entroido dos Felos in Maceda (Ourense). Here they are called “felos” but their dress is practically identical to that of peliqueiros and cigarettes.
Cobres Carnival. Vilaboa (Pontevedra)
Cobres is a small village in the municipality of Vilaboa (Pontevedra), where each year one of the most colorful and colorful carnivals in Galicia takes place, whose origins date back to the 18th century. The undisputed protagonists of this carnival are the “madamas” and the “galáns”, who represent characters from the upper class (the rest of the locals disguise themselves as villagers (villagers) and wear complicated and colorful hats. During the days Carnival travel through different villages in the area, accompanied by a charanga and entertaining the party with their dances.
This carnival is also one of the most colorful in Galicia. Its origin dates back to the nineteenth century, inspired by the war against the Napoleonic invasion and the Carlist wars that developed at that time. Os “Xenerais” (Generals) go on horseback, with very ornate period military clothes and hats with colorful feathers. This carnival has two unique characteristics: its duration (much longer than the usual period of the carnival) and those known as “atranques”, dialectical battles between xenerais, in verse and with satirical content about the events that occurred during the year.
The geographical scope of this carnival extends through rural areas of Santiago de Compostela, Teo, Boqueixón, Vedra, A Estrada, Silleda, Touro and Padrón, each with its specific dates and with different characteristics in the clothing they use, always colorful and reloaded
Carnival of Viana do Bolo (Ourense)
Again we find one of the oldest carnival celebrations in Galicia, probably related to ancestral rites prior to the arrival of the Romans. The undisputed protagonists are the so-called boteiros, who wear demonic wooden masks, with long fangs and high headdresses of bright colors.
Simultaneously to the carnival, Viana do Bolo celebrates the “Festa da Androlla”, a gastronomic event where a stew made with androlla is consumed, a sausage similar to the botillo of the neighboring region of Bierzo.
Carnival of Manzaneda (Ourense)
In this celebration, one of the most unique of the carnival in Galicia, the “foliones” that are music-festive embassies that some villages are sent to others are celebrated. These embassies are directed by the Mázcaras: characters dressed in bright colors with spectacular headdresses who dance, sing and recite satirical couplets at the doors of the houses of each village they visit (respecting only those in mourning). It is a celebration where you eat, sing, dance, drink and, above all, fun is guaranteed.
On Tuesday of Carnival all the “foliones” meet in Manzaneda to celebrate that day in a big way.
Carnival Gastronomy in Galicia
In Galicia there is no party without food and drink. The carnival era also has its traditional dishes (we have already mentioned the androlla) among which the stew stands out. Galician stew has as many versions as there are villages and towns in Galicia, but the most famous is the one made during the Festa do Cocido in the Pontevedra town of Lalín. The stew is traditionally made with desalinated pork (since it has been preserved in salt since the slaughter) as a rib, ear or nose, lacon, beef, chicken or chicken, sausage, chickpeas or beans, potatoes and vegetables such as turnip greens, cabbage, carrot …
With the cooked broth a soup is usually prepared that is served as a first course. Then the different meats, potatoes and vegetables are served. A very convincing dish, but a whole gastronomic experience.
In summary: the carnival in Galicia is well worth a visit. You will discover ancestral traditions, you will taste delicious dishes watered with good wine and, above all, you will have a great time.