Spanish and Not-so-Spanish Holidays: The Virgin of the Almudena

Well, yesterday we had the day off, and not because it was Carmen’s birthday, though that was surely cause for celebration.  It was a holiday in the Madrid, the city.  November 9th is the Feast of the Virgin of the Almudena, the patroness of the capital.  Here’s a bit of cultural information:  most towns and cities have a patron saint, when not two.  Their feasts are days of devotion and, more often than not, debauchery.  In Madrid’s case, the Almudena means doing nothing.  Absolutely nothing.   It is one of those days where nothing really ever happens.  And no one knows why.  I asked my second-graders if they knew why they were celebrating and only one out of 28 did.  You might think I was being a littl demanding of some 7-year-olds, but try asking them why they don’t have to go to school on December 25th and I bet you’ll get a satisfactory answer.

          But the Almudena gets little if any publicity.  It refers to an image of the Virgin Mary which was supposedly found within the walls of the old fortress of the Madrid.  The name “Almudena” comes from the Arabic Al Madayna which means “the citadel”, and many women in this city are given that name in honor of the image.  Madrid’s cathedral is named after it too.  Ironically, it is one of the newest temples in the Catholic world, as it was consecrated just back in 1993.  I was already living here when it was still under construction.

          But that is just about where the specialness ends.  For most madrileños, it means sleeping in late.  God bless that little statuette!!!