Virgen Blanca Festivities
The main festivities of Vitoria-Gasteiz, in honour of the “Virgen Blanca” patron saint of Vitoria-Gasteiz, are celebrated from 4th to 9th August, although this has its prelude on 25th July, “Santiago Day”, with the celebration of the “Day of the Blusa and Neska“. This is the day when the people of Vitoria go up the Cuesta de San Francisco to traditionally purchase garlic and the troupes of Blusas and Neskas make the first parade of the year.
The programme for the festival is completed with an agricultural and livestock fair, festivities, rural sports, music, etc.
A few days later, on 4th August, thousands of people anxiously wait for the clock to chime six o’clock. At that moment the “Chupinazo” (mass lighting of cigars) takes place and amid the jubilation of the crowds, the descent of “Celedón” begins. This character, dressed as a “Blusa” holding an open umbrella, slides down along a cable from the church of San Miguel to a balcony on Postas street, signalling that the fiesta start to the uproar of thousands of people who have congregated in Virgen Blanca square.
Six days of festivities and fun, constantly encouraged by the troupes of Blusas, and during which the traditional Procession of the Lanterns takes precedence.
At one o’clock in the morning on 10th August “Celedon” says goodbye to the city, “climbing” back up to the bell tower of San Miguel accompanied by fireworks and the sadness of the spectators.
The festivities in honour of Virgen Blanca go back a lot further in time, long before being declared the patron saint of the city. Up until 1883 certain events were held during the first week of September under the title of “Festivities of Vitoria”.
As from 1884 they began to be celebrated in August, following a council agreement at which it was decided that the festivities would be officially in honour of the Virgen Blanca, whose feast day was given as 5th August on the calendar of saints. It would be in 1953 when the municipal corporation established the festive calendar as it is known today.
“Celedon” is the symbol of the festivities and represents a villager from Álava. Dressed in typical garb with beret and shirt, and always carrying an umbrella, historians have identified this character from various environments.
The “Bajada de Celedón” (descent) was invented in 1957 by a group of people eager to stamp a distinctive hallmark on their city’s festivities They created the descent of a character to establish an analogy between the doll and the villagers of the province who would visit the city to join in with the celebrations.
Tradition claims that he was born in Zalduondo, a small village in Álava which, in its day, dedicated a fountain to him and from which wine would flow during the festivities. Some say that the character was called Juan Celedonio de Anzola. Other researchers suggest the “Celedón” was in fact a brigadier in the Carlist army, born in Andagoya and whose name was Celedón Aguiluz.
Since the creation of the “Celedon” character in 1957, various people have embodied the legend.