I can almost pin point the exact moment I fell in love with Pais Vasco. January 20th, 2013, San Sebastian Day, also known as La Tamborrada. I knew how food obsessed the Spanish culture is, especially in Basque Country. How integral to their daily lives, social structure, and core being food is. But I don’t think I fully understood until that day. It was the end of my first week of the Basque Stage, Sammic scholarship. They told us about this annual festival, one of the biggest and most important of the year. It began at midnight and would go on for 24 hours. The weather was absolutely uncooperative. Windy as hell, raining like crazy. Nonetheless we hopped on the train and headed for Donostia (San Sebastian).
Despite the weather, the Plaza de Constitucion was PACKED! People gathered under umbrellas in the square or up on the balconies of the buildings surrounding the plaza, drink, flag or drumsticks in hand. Twelve o’clock on the dot the flag was raised and the festivities officially began. On a large stage, two groups gathered. One group dressed in chefs uniforms, the others as soldiers, ready to face off! Each group took turns drumming traditional basque songs as the crowd sang and danced along.
Along with the main demonstration there are also smaller groups of drummers, each representing the many sociedades gastronomicas of San Sebastian, that sing and drum through the tiny, cobble stone streets all night and into the morning, until midnight of the next day. Each ‘regiment’ has their own route and time slot. There is also a competitive spirit about the whole thing. A display of manly (or womanly) hood and culinary supremacy among the gastronomic societies. They practice for weeks in preparation for this single day. What’s there not to love about a festival were people dress like chefs, make lots of noise, sing, dance, and drink through the streets, all to their heart’s content. Here is our very own Marti Kilpatrick who had the privilege of participating in this years Tamborrada (video below).
The level of energy, noise, and pride is unlike anything else.
For a more in-depth view of La Tamborrada, check out this awesome video by the Vagabrothers. They did a great job capturing the true essence and spirit of San Sebastian day.