San Isidro Day
San Isidro is the patron saint of the capital of Spain, Madrid, an the main festive event of the city. It takes place every 15th of May and commemorates the life of Isidro, a local farmer who was claimed to have performed miracles. Together with the 2nd of May Fiesta, this is the most representative and idiosyncratic celebration of Spain's capital.
Legend has it that Isidro, a labourer born near Madrid in 1082, was a man of strong faith who, while at prayer, had two angels ploughed the land for him. Also, he and his wife, Santa María de la Cabeza, had a son that fell as a baby into a water well. They recurred to prayer, and miraculously the water rose to ground level and returned the child unharmed. Another miracle attributed to him is to have made a water spring gush from the earth just by hitting the soil with his ploughing stick. The water then proved to have healing and miraculous properties, for it healed all of Prince Felipe's illnesses when he drank it. For this reason, a hermitage in honor of the saint was built on that spot in 1528.
Though the origin of the celebration is unclear, the people of Madrid have embraced San Isidro as their patron saint with great devotion and conviction. Even though Madrid has a long time ago left behind the farming world, the figure of the saint is venerated in Spain's capital city. It may have to do with the origins of the saint, who spent his life in the town of Torrelaguna, in the province of Madrid. He lived there together with his wife, María Torribia, known in Spain as Santa María de la Cabeza, also a very cherished and beloved saint in Madrid. A funny fact is that they are the only married couple to be canonized by the Roman Catholic church in history.
From the very first hour of the morning on the 15th of May, the people of Madrid go to the Pradera de San Isidro (the San Isidro Meadow) in a thronging pilgrimage. At around 12pm a mass takes place there, attended by thousands of Madrileños dressed in the typical costumes of the city. After the solemn but relaxed service, the Archbishop of Madrid proceeds to bless the water from the San Isidro spring.
In the afternoon of the same day, there is a procession on which the images of both the saint and his wife, Santa María de la Cabeza are paraded through the city centre up to the traditional Plaza de la Villa. The tradition is that, after this, the pilgrims would make the way back to the Hermitage, located in the San Isidro Meadow, and drink the water from the holy spring.
Chotis contest - Plaza Mayor
Another main event, and very idiosyncratic, is the public representation of the typical dance of Madrid, the Chotis, in the city's Plaza Mayor during this fiesta. Hundreds of couples, dressed in the traditional costumes, engage in a public Chotis contest. There is a funny anecdote about the typical costume of Madrid: it receives the name "de chulapo" for men, a word that derives from the derogatory term "chulo", which means to be full of oneself.
Bullfighting and side activities
As it happens in most of the celebrations in Spain, bullfighting is a central element of the fiesta. In this case, it is specially relevant, for the San Isidro Fair is the start of te capital's bullfighting season, and is the world's biggest and most important event, and manages to line up all the main bullfighters and bull breeders.
There are also, apart from bullfighting, many other street events, like folk music concerts, craftsmanship fairs and the rosquillas stalls, which are ring shaped pastries specially cooked for thecelebration. You may also encounter organ grinders selling a classic snack called barquillo around the streets downtown, and on Sunday a huge cocido is made in the Pradera, closing Madrid's most cherished celebration.