On Sunday, I woke up to my host mother ironing. Due to the lack of mechanical dryers here, she irons a lot. However, this morning the garments subjected to the steam included a 50-year-old shawl, and her grandmother’s jewelry box lay open on the table next to her. We were preparing to dress in traditional Aragonés clothing for the Ofrenda de Flores – the offering of flowers to the Virgen del Pilar.
Despite the wind, the day was perfect, which explains why 300,000 people joined the procession, all donned in traditional dress and carrying bouquets. If one joined the parade at the beginning, the wait was about 2 hours to reach the Virgen. However, my mother, a Zaragonana through and through, knew where we could cut in about 10 minutes away from the end.
This was what awaited us as we rounded the corner into the Plaza del Pilar: a huge wire pyramid, with its top two terraces already covered in flowers, and a statue of the Virgen on top.
The next day, Monday, brought the Ofrenda de Frutos – the offering of food. Monday was also the Día de Hispanidad, the day of Spanishness, the Iberian end of Columbus Day. This Ofrenda was a huge parade of groups of people from each autonomous community in Spain, including the Canary Islands. Each group was dressed in the traditional clothing of their area, and most had music and dancers as well. This time my host mother and I just watched.
The Pilar festivals are much more than parades, however. They now include free concerts, churros and almendradas, days off school, and rampant drunk Spaniards. And although we are back in school, the festivals haven’t ended. Street vendors still line the main avenue, which has been cut off from traffic for the entire week, and there is a giant stage outside our school building that was sound testing all yesterday. Zaragoza’s population was doubled by the visitors last weekend, and many are still around, looking forward to the final festivities to come.