Last week, I stayed in Seville for almost three weeks; the longest time since my first trip out of Spain. I had a week off from classes, so I spent my time celebrating—in the most Spanish of ways—by attending the Feria de Abril festival here in Seville. Literally meaning the “Fair of April,” the festival was unlike any cultural event I had ever seen.
Best described as a church parking lot carnival on steroids, the festival met the big budget of a city unabashedly proud of its cultural legacy, with the twist that its seemingly mandatory garb provided for an eye-catching week of celebrations. It was amazing! Forget Carnival or Oktoberfest, this festival is the epitome of why one must travel to Europe to see how absolutely amazingly Old World parties manifest in the modern age.
I feel like this description has still not done it justice. There was a fairground consisting of five rollercoasters, two Ferris wheels, three sets of bumper cars, and the biggest haunted house that I have ever seen. There were booths after booths serving the Spanish version of the deep-fried Twinkie: hastily made pizza and croquetas (think deep-fried ham and cheese sandwiches). There were hundreds of tent-like structures, called casetas, that can only be described as the real-life manifestation of the magical tents that Harry Potter and his friends encounter when they enter the small tents that open into grand halls of decadence (there were legitimately nice paintings and chandeliers in every hall). Finally, there was a specialty drink specific to the festival: el rebujito, apple wine mixed with Sprite or Seven-Up. Complete with a bar in every single tent, el rebujito was available in every block, and the lack of enforcement for open carry resulted in a literal overflowing of the sweet, refreshing drink.
Seville, being one of the warmest cities in Western Europe, also touted temperatures of over 80 degrees Fahrenheit almost every day (that’s 27 Celsius for my non-American readers). So among the almost universally suit-wearing men and flamenco dress-wearing women, I was amazed by the fun.
This festival was not just fun but really highlighted Spanish culture. Spain, and Seville in particular, are places where people take their cultural customs and traditions incredibly seriously. They will do as those before them did forever. Why? Because they really, really love being Spanish. It is incredibly endearing and makes for such a warm, happy environment. After all, my host family would rather quit their jobs than risk the possibility of not celebrating the daily ritual of the beloved siesta (I cannot complain).
Additionally, the festival represented a small window into the Old World that Europe once was. Started simply as a large market fair over a century ago, the Feria de Abril has evolved into celebrating all things Sevillano. It has taught me that even in Spain, a country whose daily life does not differ dramatically from American life, a cultural festival can bring to life a past world: one of custom, tradition, and culture.