Wednesday, January 19, 2011
San Sebastian celebrates its patron's day with the Tamborrada
As the clocks ring in San Sebastian Day, thousands of members of the city's gastronomic societies fill the air with the sound of their drumming - and for 24 hours they just don't stop.
Shortly before midnight on Tuesday 19th January, hundreds of curious first-timers and loyal die-hards will gather to witness the start of the most important, if peculiar, celebration on the San Sebastian calendar.
From midnight to midnight on 20th January every year, come what may, men and women dressed in military or chefs' uniforms perform a drum march through the streets of this seaside town in commemoration of a time when local residents supposedly mocked parading Napoleonic troops by banging loudly on cauldrons.
Despite its seemingly parodic origins, however, the people of San Sebastian take this ritual drum-banging - known as the "Tamborrada" - very seriously.
What is best known about the history of the Tamborrada is that little is known for certain, due to a lack of records from the time of its creation. There is, however, no lack of theories regarding its origins:
Many link the birth of the Tamborrada to a time when San Sebastian was a stronghold dominated by Napoleonic troops. It is certainly likely that bakers and female water carriers mocked the troops by striking barrels or cauldrons in imitation of military drumming.
What is certain is that by the nineteenth century, the spirit of carnival had taken root in the celebrations for San Sebastian Day. Several groups had formed, such as the Valencian Blind People's Masquerade and the Gardeners Group, in 1817, and the Coppersmith group the following year.
The Tamborrada was probably created in 1836 at the height of the Carlist Wars. In 1861, it gained a significant boost thanks to the composition of Raimundo Sarriegui's "Marcha de San Sebastián" (San Sebastian March) which remains the festival's anthem to this day