Sometimes it is a coincidence, other times it is a matter of destiny. Every January 20th, one of the world's most Michelin-starred cities, San Sebastian, celebrates the day of its patron saint.
The day, named after the city itself, sees thousands of people jumping into the streets dressed as cooks and beating drums and barrels that can be heard from far away.
From uncertain origins, the first celebration of San Sebastian Day dates back to 1597, when in the midst of an epidemic plague near the city, the inhabitants went in procession to pray to Saint Sebastian. It is said that the plague subsided, and since then the saint has been honoured by celebrating this day.
There are still small traces of the religious celebration, but over the years the day of San Sebastian has become, above all, a popular festival, honouring its saint with 24 hours filled with the roar of drums.
There are more than 17,000 people dressed as cooks and traditional soldiers, divided into about 150 drumming groups called ‘tamborradas’, one for each gastronomic society. Each has its sappers (who parade with large knives, forks or spoons), standard-bearers, drums and barrels, led by a drum major and accompanied by a band. The cooks make up the largest group of the whole ‘tamborrada’ and the representation of the citizenship.
Everything kicks off at 00:00 on January 20th, when the mayor of the city raises the city flag in front of thousands of citizens in the Constitution Square, which unfortunately is not big enough to hold all the inhabitants who celebrate the day of their patron saint. After singing the march of San Sebastian, composed by Raimundo Sarriegui, people run to meet the ‘tamborradas’, each with its own drum-beating route through the city.
A beat that won't end until 24 hours later.
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