Since the city of Huesca first celebrated the Festival of Saint Lawrence over 500 years ago, the celebration has undergone many changes. Semana Grande in Huesca begins on August 9th when a flare is set off from the balcony of city hall, and it finishes on the night of the 15th. During the seven days in between, all kinds of activities take place in one of the biggest festivals in Aragon, attracting visitors from all over northern Spain.
At noon on August 9th, thousands of young people donning the traditional white and green outfit gather in front of Huesca City Hall, awaiting the flare that announces the official start of the festivities. Finally, when the explosion occurs, the entire plaza erupts in a roar. The charanga bands start to play as the city gets ready for seven days of celebration. Then there is a parade in which the groups of celebrants, known as peñas, make their way to Saint Lawrence Basilica accompanied by the miralesas, young people representing the various neighborhoods of the city. Once they enter the basilica, one of the five peñas is in charge of draping the saint with a green scarf, which symbolizes the festival.
August 10th is Saint Lawrence Day, the most important day of the Festival of Saint Lawrence in Huesca. In the morning, the Huesca Dancers put on a folk-style performance consisting of five regional dances: Espadas, Palos Viejos, Palos Nuevos, Cintas, and Degollau. Next, during the Procession of Saint Lawrence, a silver statue of the saint is paraded throughout the main streets of the city and then returned to the basilica, where a mass is held to conclude the procession.
On the 11th, the popular Huesca Street Market (Feria del Comercio Oscense) takes place in Plaza de Luis López Allué. All morning, local vendors sell a variety of homemade products and food.
The celebration keeps going nonstop for the next few days: concerts, sports games, regional clothing competitions, and all kinds of other events take place throughout the week, so there’s something for everyone. White and green become the colors of Huesca, and the peñas truly make the festival what it is. The Festival of Saint Lawrence has a unique flavor, as it is a big celebration typical of a capital city like Huesca but with a more rustic essence. As in other Spanish cities, one of the most popular events of the week is the bull festival, which takes place every afternoon in the Plaza de Toros. Here you can see typical bullfights as well as variations such as bullfights with the matador riding on horseback and recortador competitions. In addition, heifers are let loose every morning to entertain early risers and those who are still awake from the night before.
On August 15th, the festival finally draws to a close. In the afternoon, an offering of flowers and fruit is made to Saint Lawrence. Thousands of locals donning traditional regional garb honor the saint with fruit and bunches of basil, while the party atmosphere begins to wind down in the streets of Huesca. At night, the members of the six peñas (Alegría Laurentina, Diez de Agosto, Los Que Faltaban, La Parrilla, Los Treinta, and Zoiti) raise their green scarves up to the saint and join in a chant to bid farewell to the festival. Their song goes:
“Farewell, Saint Lawrence, farewell,
The peñas are here.
We, too, regret
That today the festival reaches its end.”