Monday, March 26, 2012


Andorra has a lot of celebration days and holidays, but only a few of which are ones that banks and government offices shut down.  Because Andorra is primarily Roman Catholic, many of the religious holidays are Catholic holidays. (Dates given are for 2012.)

New Years Day: January 1. The New Years is almost as extravagant as Christmas. There are lots of special foods, dancing, music, and drinking. It’s celebrated for several days, usually until Epiphany. Like other European countries, they do many of the same traditions, like New Years resolutions, prepare a Yule log, but they also decorate their homes with different flowers, as well as mistletoe (which is normally used only around Christmas in the US) and juniper. A lot of places will set off fireworks.

Epiphany: January 6.  Epiphany is the feast day in Christianity that celebrates God the Son taking the form of a human being in Jesus Christ. It also celebrates the Magi visiting the baby Jesus and bringing gifts.  Many Andorrans celebrate it by eating sweet pastries with a trinket in it, and whoever gets the pastry with the trinket in it is “king” for a day. This is also a tradition in areas of nearby France as well.

Constitution Day: March 14. This is the day that the constitution was signed March 14, 1993. It was originally signed by Andorra’s co-princes, which at the time were the French President, François Mitterrand, and the Bishop of Urgell, Joan Martí Alanis. Most businesses are closed.

Easter: April 8. In Andorra, churches stop ringing their bells on Maundy Thursday and will commence ringing again on Easter Sunday. Children will often wake up on Easter morning to search for colored eggs. Some will uses candles as a metaphor for Jesus being the “Light of the World” and will extinguish it on Good Friday to signify his death while relighting again it on Sunday morning to signify his raising from the dead. Then it’s lit every day until Ascension Day.

Labor Day: May 1.  Most businesses are closed.  The May 1 date has been set as Labor Day since 1890.  Many workers will gather at factories and workplaces and then participate in parades and other demonstrations.

Ascension: May 17.  Ascension Day is 40 days after Easter. Many churches will elevate a figure of Jesus through a hole in the roof to signify Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

St. John’s Day: June 24.  Although it marks the beginning of summer solstice, it’s named after John the Baptist. Huge bonfires are set in every town, its fuel being provided for by the citizens of that town. There are prayers said, mostly for a good harvest. And no celebrate would be complete without singing and dancing.  After the bonfire is put out, many farmers will take some of the ashes and spread it on the corners of their field. 

Assumption: Aug. 15. Another Catholic holiday celebrating Mary’s assumption into heaven. Many Andorran Catholics will celebrate with going to church, picnics, parties, and spending time with family.

National Day: September 8. Also called Our Lady of Meritxell Day, named after the patron saint of Andorra (the Virgin Mary). Most businesses are closed for the day, and many people will visit church for a special Mass to pay homage to the national saint. They often eat grilled lamb and spend the night dancing, and there’s usually a fireworks display after dark.

All Saint’s Day: November 1. An old celebration I think may be related to the early observance of what Halloween developed from.  Some will take the time to visit of the graves of loved ones to pay homage to their ancestors and tidy up the gravesites. It’s been said that this helps to ease the feeling of the dead, especially to keep those who may not have had a peaceful death from coming back for retribution.

Immaculate Conception: December 8.  A celebration surrounding the idea that Mary was excluded from original sin and became the mother of Jesus. Many Catholics will attend services to place roses at the feet of a statue of Mary.

Christmas Eve: December 24.  Many families see this as a time to get together to celebrate the holiday. Andorran Christians may attend a midnight Mass and followed by a variety of celebrations that include drinking hot wine and eating a variety of special food and sweets.

Christmas: December 25.  There are a lot of popular celebrations in Andorra around Christmastime. Christmas trees and lights decorate the country. Andorran Christians will attend one or more special church services. Exchanging presents is also popular.  Many Andorrans will eat turkey for their Christmas meal along with special Christmas sweets.

Music is really important in Andorra, and several music festivals are held throughout the year.  The International Jazz Festival is held each year in July (I would TOTALLY love to go to that!), and the Festival of Classical Music is held every September (I might as well just stay for this one). There are several music and dance festivals held around the country.  And apparently, there is also the International Women’s Clown Festival held in the capital, Andorra la Vella, if that’s your thing. See, there IS something for everyone.

Up next: Art and Literature

Wikipedia articles: “Epiphany” “Constitution Day”

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