Local culture in Gran Canaria is a collection of many different festivities and celebrations scattered through the year. Are you familiar with them? Let us detail some of the more important ones so you will have a clearer picture of which ones you would like to attend to during your vacation. Let’s get to it!
There are many popular festivities and celebrations taking place in Gran Canaria beyond the exuberant carnaval or the traditional romerías (religious pilgrimages). The Canaries are known for being home to a large number of local festivities where participants, locals or visitors to the islands, play their part and have lots of fun. Let us list the biggest and more renowned festivities and celebrations in Gran Canaria.
The Maspalomas Carnival is one of the most important celebrations in the Canary Islands, an explosion of joy that’s an absolute must for everyone. Maspalomas is located in the municipality of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, to the south of Gran Canaria; its carnival offers the best entertainment and street parades so every visitor, local or outsider, can’t help but get swept away in the celebration. A wide range of possibilities for accommodation is available including those close to the centre of Playa del Inglés so visitors can enjoy the whole Carnaval without a worry.
The Carnival itself is a swirl of costumes, songs, colours, dances, and parades congregating hundreds of creative participants moving to the sound of the carnival troupes (comparsas) and floats (carrozas).
This exotic blend goes on for approximately 10 days of streets filled with an assortment of celebrations and acts such as the street band contest, comparsa troupes (a mixture of dancers, singers and musicians) and all the Carnival Queen pageants (Queen of Carnival, Elder Lady, Youth queen); not forgetting the fabulous Drag Queen Gala, a never ending string of musical performances and the mogollones, where everyone gets together and dance to the tune of dozens of tiny bars offering drinks and fun. It all ends up at the great finale: The Great Parade on saturday where all the carnival floats slowly make their way accompanied by the dancing of everyone in costume. Come Sunday, the traditional Burial of the Sardine marks the end of the Carnival festivities.
The Maspalomas International Carnival takes place at the end of February and early March. It paints the whole area with fun, tradition, and social entertainment for a few days. Highlights: Everyone should attend the Great Parade and the Drag Gala at least once, but be warned: you’ll want to come back again!
Taking place during the last days of January / early February, the tradition of honouring the almond tree blossom has been kept alive since 1971, the year when it was established as the first non-christian festivity in Gran Canaria.
The celebration highlights the passion and dedication of the neighbours and guests who explore the town, shop for local arts and crafts and bask in the beauty of the flowering almond tree. The rural identity of the townsfolk is linked to agriculture and livestock, and paired with the exceptional qualities of this festival led to achieve the Regional Touristic Interest Festivity award in 2014.
A traditional festivity that celebrates the hard labour of the fishermen of old who would pile their boats by the shore and try to sell their load of freshly caught fish. A celebration that aims to communicate the fishing costumes, habits and ways of the old Arinaga fishermen. Today, thousands wait at the shore for the handout of 1000 kg of sardines, which is repeated every last Friday of the month of August.
There is a peculiarity: those who take part in the celebration do so fully dressed in fisherman or sailor clothes and are escorted by bands of traditional music.
Agaete, located to the north of Gran Canaria, celebrates each year the festivities in honour of La Virgen de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows). Tradition dictates the dance of thousands of devout believers and visitors. The centennial Banda de Agaete plays the music and the busy streets are traversed with the rustle and shake of branches (the ramas) in a procession that ends at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
Early August features a series of festivities like La Rama (on the 4th), La Diana and La Retreta.
Inspired by an ancient aboriginal rite and celebrated in August, it’s a commemoration of the importance of water. In other times droughts were more common and had dire consequences for the island, which motivated frequent religious acts of prayer. In Gran Canaria, if it wouldn’t rain in a while processions were made to the aboriginal sites of prayer with milk and butter in hand as offerings, while yelling to the skies for the rain to come.
Lomo Magullo, in Telde, is home to this very popular celebration. Milk and butter have been substituted with water collected from the canal and then sprayed and thrown at every participant with the help of buckets or even water guns. The end of the festivity calls for an offering to Our Lady of the Snows and a traditional dance.
Another very popular celebration in Gran Canaria, La Fiesta del Pino, takes place in the northern town of Teror and it’s celebrated in honour of Nuestra Señora del Pino (Our Lady of the Pines). Perhaps the biggest in importance of all the festivities on the island, takes place during three weeks in September. It includes exhibitions, kids workshops, popular traditional dances, plays and other musical events.
Year after year, on the night of September 7th thousands of pilgrims show up in a walking procession, they come from every corner of the island, as part of a promise or asking the religious figure for help. The romería is another popular segment of the festivity, the Virgin is carried out to the front of the basílica where symbolic offerings are made by political representatives and folkloric groups.
Romerías are basically recurrent pilgrimages, and they take place all through the year. Depending on the traditional festivities of each municipality, you can visit in any season and find the Romería de San Fernando, the Romería de Teror, etc. A list of romerías with their date follows:
To give you a sense of how the romerías feel, imagine a celebration where traditional music is constantly present, any time of day. The streets are packed for a festivity that promotes agricultural traditions of the island to the sound of drums, guitars and timples.
In conclusion, these festivities in Gran Canaria are a showcase of a land rich in celebrations. The ample availability in accomodation and hotels opens the door for many international visitors to come and take part in the traditions and celebrations. Would you like to live an unforgettable experience? Come visit, and enjoy the festivities.