San Isidro Labrador holiday in Madrid

Published: 18th October 2006
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Each Spanish city has its saint patron, to honour which there are holidays celebrated, ceremonial masses and festivals are organized. Spanish people still follow this tradition and saint patron days are widely celebrated not only in large cities, but also in small villages.
Madrid is famous for its numerous holidays, and the most loved of them is the day of its saint patron - Isidro the Laborer. To learn the roots of this holiday, you will have to look far into the history of the country.
According to the legend, St. Isidro was born in 1082 in the Christian family that lived in the small Madgerit city, which is now Madrid. When the boy grew old, he started doing peasant work for his landowner Juan de Vargas. At the same time, he revealed an unusual ability to find sources of drinking water, which made him popular all around the neighbourhood and which combined with great devotion and kindness of a saint. St. Isidro lived a long life till 90, during which a lot of goodness was done. In 1172 he was buried in the Church of St. Andrew, not far from his home, and from this time people were coming here to pray not only to St. Andrew, but also to St. Isidro. Little by little, he became one of the most esteemed Madrid saints and in XVI century there was a chapel built on the place where St. Isidro revealed the spring.
In 1619 St. Isidro was officially canonized and was named the patron of Madrid. From this time, there was the holiday of St. Isidro celebrated, which started May 15th and lasted for 8 days. The main celebration place was Plaza Mayor, where religious processions, dances and masquerades were organized. The traditional celebrations were developed further and more and more people were coming to the city to celebrate this holiday.
The St. Isidro holiday lived through a lot of events, such as Civil War, introduction of new place of celebrations - Casa de Campo and more. Finally, in 1970 there was a grand corrida organized at Plaza Mayor in which famous toreros - Perlata brothers took part and in the beginning of 80-s a vast celebration programme was worked out, which is still performed during St. Isidro celebrations.
The celebration week starts Sunday before May 15th, when ceremonial church service is carried out at the St. Isidro spring. On May 15th at dawn the bishop celebrates the mass at the Madrid Cathedral on Toledo street. The holiday ends Sunday after the 15th of May.
If during this period you are lucky enough to be in Madrid, you can participate in national celebrations that are organized in several places. For instance, there are national costumes dancing at Plaza Mayor, in which people from different Spanish provinces as well as from Madrid take part. Also, the youth go on pirogues down the Manzanares river.
In the evening, thousands of Madrid people come to see the final part of the Spanish cycling competition, organized specially to celebrate the holiday. Those who are fond of corrida lead their way to the famous Plaza de Torros de las Ventas, where in the evening they can see the bull fight. Famous rock singers perform at Plaza Casa de Campo or at the Sports Palace.
On these days those who live in Madrid feel that they are one family, realize that they are all part of one culture because they follow their ancestors' traditions. Even though Madrid is a capital city with hectic life, holidays are the time when its real character reveals itself in full measure.
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