If you study abroad in Sevilla, or even anywhere near Sevilla in the springtime, anyone you meet will tell you all about the Feria de Abril and ask you if you are going to go. And although your teachers, friends, host families, and strangers will tell you all about it, if you’re anything like me when it’s actually time for the Feria you still will have no idea how to prepare or what to expect… So, I’ll do my best to share what I have learned with you!
First of all, you have to set some time aside to go! You normally get the whole week off and Feria does last a Whole week. This year it was the last week of April and I was only able to go for 2 days but I wish I had stayed for more.
Now what exactly is Feria and why is it celebrated you may be wondering. For starters it is the largest fair in all of Andalusia and it started as a livestock market in the 19th century but soon turned into the social event that it is today, it is also used as a way to celebrate the coming of Spring time!
I think what makes Feria different compared to other celebrations and traditions in Spain, is that for Feria everybody dresses up in traditional clothing and when you are at Feria it feels like you have been transported to a different time period. It feels almost magical!
The females wear a dress called traje de gitana which is similar to a typical flamenco dress, and these dresses are very colorful and bright. They accessorize these dresses with mantoncillos, a small scarf/shawl that covers the shoulders. And everyone will have at least one flower in their hair which is usually pulled back, and of course you can’t forget the big colorful earrings to match the flower!
For men it is more simple and they just wear suits or slacks with a nice button up shirt. However the horsemen or conductors of the carriages at the Feria wear what is called a traje de corto, which includes a cropped jacket, high waisted tight trousers, boots, and a hat called cordobés.
You don’t technically half to dress up or get a Feria dress, but in my experience I would 100% reccomend it. It will make your experience ten times better and you will feel less like an outsider, plus it is a lot of fun :)
The carriages and horses are one of the most facinating sights to see at the Feria de Abril, during the day is when you will see them bringing people to and from the Feria, or see the parade of carriages.
They do have certain events that take places on certain days during the week such as el Alumbrado, the lighting of the gate and lanterns which takes place the first sunday at midnight. Or the Wednesday is normally a public holiday so it is when you see the most people and carriages. But for the most part, the day time is for organized meals going on in all the private casetas (which I will explain more in a second) along with carriage rides and horses, and then at night is when the real party starts! The nightitme is devoted to eating, drinking and dancing until the early hours of the morning.
Another key thing to know about the Feria is the Casetas. The Casetas are individual tents owned by a group of friends, a company or an association whose members and their guests use to eat drink and dance. There are about 1,050 casetas which gives you an idea jsut how big this celebration is. The only thing is most of these casetas are Private and you need to know someone to get in… And although the private casetas are said to be a lot better, there are public ones that are open to anyone. I spent all my time in the public casetas and still had a lot of fun!
I mentioned dancing that takes place in these casetas, but it’s not just any dancing. At the Feria they dance Sevillanas which is a type of flamenco-style dance. Everyone from Sevilla knows how to dance these as they grow up doing it, but don’t fret if you don’t know how to, it is fun to watch others do it! However there are many opportunities and groups that provide free Sevillanas dance lessons if you’re interested!
For food and drink, each caseta is equipped with a bar and kitchen. You can choose from different types of andalusian tapas, which are small plates of food. Feria also has it’s own drink called a Rebujito, which is Manzanilla – a type of sherry – mixed with sprite. It is delicious and sevillanos will warn you because it is very easy to drink and with the heat of the andalusian sun sometimes it catches you by surprise…
Aside from the casetas you also have the actual fair grounds where you’ll find so many fair rides and food stands if you need a break from all the sevillanas dancing! This was one of the coolest things to see because everyone is still all dressed up in their Feria outfits while riding on fair rides and it is just a funny sight to see. It is different from other festivals where for example you’re wearing regular clothing but just color coordinate to the event, or for example in the USA events like Gasparilla where everyone is dressed up as a pirate, at Feria everyone is dressed up so elegant and nice and they’re riding carnival rides as if it was no big deal.
Overall Feria is an amazing experience and if you ever find yourself in Spain around this time of year it is definately worth adding a stop in Sevilla to experience it for yourself!!