Yes, you read the title right…the Festival San Mateo is 10 straight days of fiesta that takes place in Oviedo, Spain. From September 14th – 22nd, the town has live music concerts, delicious food vendors and drink stands every night! Taking place outdoors throughout the beautifully ancient and historic city center, the cobblestone streets are closed to cars and the plazas become home to concert stages and bright lights. Hanging stretched across the streets are bright festive lights of all colors and music plays on the go as small marching bands and random groups stop and play along the street and as they march about. During the daytime there are activities for children and families in the Parque San Francisco and it’s a popular time for tourists to visit and hikers walking the “El Camino de Santiago” to fill up the city.
I had never heard about the San Mateo Festival and was amazed at how just a week after most Spaniards get back from their holiday travels during the month of August, there are ten-days of festival! Wow. Talk about liking to party, right? I went out last night on the very first day of the festival and simply walked around and wove my way through the lively crowds as I observed all the reveling. Eventually I went to the Plaza Paraguas to enjoy two fantastic jazz bands playing outdoors to less dense crowd. The second group that performed was an amazing funk jazz band that had an incredible singer – short and petite, with thick curly blond hair, the singer looked young and so girly. Then she opened her voice and sang with her arms outstretched, playing the tambourine and dancing to the music….and wow! Did she pack a powerful punch. Her voice was perfect for jazz funk, reminding me of Amy Winehouse.
The night was fun, but I called it early. Since the weather is changing with the seasons now, it tends to be warm during the days, but then cools down drastically at night, with a damp cold from the humidity. Not a good combination for me and my voice since I’m going to be singing with a jazz group as well on the 21st – the official day of San Mateo. I’ll make sure and follow-up with a story of how it goes so come back to visit my blog for that write-up 🙂
When I first looked for information online about the history of the San Mateo Festival, I didn’t find that much right away. But the city of Oviedo provides a great summary of its history and origins on its city website. The name San Mateo translates into “Saint Matthew” and like most festivals that take place in Europe, it originates with the traditions of the Catholic church and goes backs hundreds of years, all the way to the 9th century. From the little bit I have found and read, it celebrates the “pardon” as related to the Holy Cross and how pilgrims entering into Oviedo were to be in jubilee over this pardon. It is described as having been a time of “indulgence” for the people…that’s one way to celebrate a “pardon” I suppose. And hey, to really properly indulge, the Spaniards need at least 10-days. Being part Spaniard, I would concur on this. Well, the celebrations have just kicked off – let’s see how I feel as day ten approaches….
It’s fun to be here for these great days of celebration in a town that I have come to really love. When I first arrived in August and started to make friends, they kept telling me I had to make sure and stay for the San Mateo Festival. As I enjoy this new experience, I’ll do my best to write about it here in my travel blog and hope you enjoy following along with what I learn, experience, and try to capture in words and photos for you. If you know about San Mateo and have some history on it, please do share. It’s great to learn together and in some way, it’ll be like you get to be here with me. Or just come join me as well!