Beware of Festivos

Nobody warned us that 15 August was a Festivo!

Those of us who live in Spain have learnt, sometimes the hard way, to be wary of Festivos.  They have a habit of sneaking up on us without us noticing.  Back in the UK  things are more structured: we all know when a bank holiday is approaching, so it can’t take anybody by surprise.  The rare extra day’s holiday is always announced well in advance by the press - for example the Royal Wedding at the end of April - so everybody can take advantage of it.  In the UK you don’t have to worry about shops closing either, but things are very different in Spain, as we found out not long after moving here.

Most people are aware that Spain has a generous allocation of national holidays however, in addition to the 11 national days (compared to only 8 in the UK), there is a regional day plus two local days.  These are the sneaky ones that we are all very wary about, especially as the Ayuntamiento can change them from one year to another! 

My friend Lesley told us this morning that she had noticed the 25th July was a red day on her calendar, and wondered if this meant local shops will be closed.  I have reassured her that 25th July is a regional day, but not in Murcia where we live.  If you live in, or are visiting a different region, you might want to check it out now!

During the hot months of July and August, John and I enjoy wandering around the supermarket in the afternoon, escaping from the heat and making the most of the cool interior.  An added bonus is that our Spanish neighbours are either lingering over their lunch or having a siesta, so it’s usually a lot quieter then. 

We had been living in Jumilla for two months when we discovered that Spanish bank holidays are very different. We had heard that August 15 was a holiday however Consum, our nearest supermarket, was open that morning.  We followed our usual routine: lunch at about 2pm, then a stroll along the road with our shopping list, hoping to find a deserted supermarket.  Instead, we found a closed supermarket!  There was a procession that day as part of the Fiesta de la Vendimia, so we assumed that Consum and the other shops nearby had closed early because they were on the route.  No problem, we would just have to walk a bit further to Mercadona.  There we found another closed supermarket!  Hmmm.  Aldi?  We were lucky as Aldi was still open, though we spotted a notice pinned up on the door announcing that they would be closing early, so we managed to buy the few things that we needed. 

The apartment that we have bought is in a different part of town to where we were renting, so Aldi is now conveniently on our doorstep and Mercadona is just a short walk away.  We have got into the habit of checking the noticeboard near the back exit of Mercadona, which shows which days, if any, the store will be closed that month.  We know we are safe for the rest of July!

The good news, if you are caught out by an unexpected festivo in Spain, is that lots of bars and restaurants will be open.  We discovered this on a festivo that fell on a Monday, when we were surprised to see that one of our favourite bars, that normally closed on Mondays, was open that day.  Even better news for us, Bar Paraiso offers its bargain 8€ ménu del día any day that it is open, which includes weekends and festivos, so if  we are taken by surprise again, we know where to go!

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  1. Jack Scott’s avatar

    Turkey has loads of national holidays where things like banks and government offices are closed but everything else is open. Turkey never closes as people can’t bear the thought of losing a lira or two. Turkey, not Britain, is a nation of shopkeepers!