Those of a certain age always called these processions to a local shrine, generally followed by festivities, romerías. Pure and simple. Nowadays they are called “fiestas de prau” (literally, parties in fields). Whatever they are called, the municipal borough of Gijón/Xixón has always been very fond of heading off to oak groves, meadows and outdoor spaces in general to celebrate any event. All to the beat of the drum and the sound of the bagpipe, accompanied by abundant cider and the popular buffet-style feast known as an espicha, well stocked with savoury pies, Spanish omelettes, chorizos cooked in cider and, of course, the mandatory boiled eggs. Food and drink first. Then the dance. They say, and it appears there are documents to support the tale, that in the early 20th century the romería in Granda was so renowned and had so many participants that some families pawned their mattresses so as to have some ready cash to spend during the festivity.
Popular festive culture has saved romerías from disappearing. Nowadays, no neighbourhood association worth its name lacks a festivities committee that spends the year organizing raffles, stands, sweepstakes and other methods to raise sufficient funds to hire the best local orchestra or launch a spectacular fireworks display.
Summer will be with us very soon now and every weekend there will be a romería procession from one parish to another and also to different districts in the town in search of mandatory enjoyment, whether in a field or on the street, as romerías are not just part of our countryside heritage. To give you an idea, more than forty fiestas and romerías are held between 1st May and 4th December! Yes, you heard right… 40! The desire to “party”, called folixa in Asturias, knows no obstacles in winter and in autumn makes the most of chestnuts and freshly pressed apple juice, known as sidra dulce, to celebrate saints’ days.
The truth of the matter is that summer in Gijón/Xixón is very long and full of fiestas. There are those held on the same day every year and those of “general interest”, all organized by city hall. But there are also small celebrations held in the city’s districts and outlying country parishes that mean the festive calendar is both incredibly intensive and nonstop. Almost miraculously, however, people get to the end of summer without serious mishaps, countering the saying that “those who go partying at a romería repent the next day”.