In Navarre the melancholy of winter is drowned out by the hullabaloo and explosion of colour that is Carnival, with the entire region overflowing with rituals over these festivities.
Witches, bears, phantoms in straw-filled sacks, coalmen, giants and bandits with sticks flood the streets in many villages, reviving some of their most ancestral dances and magical rituals. Magic
come together to offer visitors the unique opportunity of discovering the most deep-rooted customs of rural Navarrese villages.
Enjoy the chance to mingle among the crowds and marvel at some authentic carnival festivities.
Here are some of the most unique carnivals in our community:
- Ituren and Zubieta: festivity declared a Cultural Asset of Interest. The Zanpantzar or joaldunak (cowbell-wearers) from these villages parade through the streets wearing sheep-skins and conical headwear with strips of colours, shaking their large cowbells to a spectacular and astonishing rhythm, with the aim of chasing away bad spirits. On Monday, Zubieta locals visit the village of Ituren, whilst on Tuesday zanpantzar from Ituren return the visit to Zubieta.
- Lantz: its carnival has also been declared a Cultural Asset of Interest. It is presided by the bandit Miel Otxin, who was captured and sentenced to death by fire, today celebrated by burning a life-sized doll.
- Altsasu-Alsasua: its carnival has also been declared a Festivity of Touristic Interest. The momotxorros take centre stage here, wearing bloody costumes and large antlers. Their faces are covered with horsehair and the cowbells on their backs cause a resounding cacophony. The carry a sarde (pitchfork), which they use to intimidate onlookers. They dance alongside other characters in the parades, including witches, the mascaritas, "Juantramposos" and the macho cabrío goat.
• Aoiz: The narrow streets of this town fill with colour in this carnival. The boys dress as cascabobos, with eye-catching hats or ttuntturro, adorned with coloured strips. Their faces are covered with a mask and material, and they wear bells attached to their bodies. They hit anyone they come across with a bota, a sock filled with cloths attached to the end of a stick. The mascaritas (girls) wear a wide-brimmed hat covered with a thick veil hiding their faces. As well as the kalejira and puzkabiltza (collecting eggs and chistorra sausage), there is an opening and purifying of the "Cursed" street, now known as the Street of Cascabobos and Mascaritas. Local tradition speaks of a murder that took place in this street over 70 years ago, since when it has remained closed. It is only reopened during carnival to allow the carnival characters to parade through carrying lit torches after burning Ziriko and Kapusai, the lead players in this tragic event.
• Bera: here men and women swap roles. In the parade of the inude ta artzaiak, the men dress as nursemaids and the women dress as shepherds, then they both parade in pairs down the streets of Bera.
• Goizueta: the stars of this carnival are the coalmen, carrying some zagis (wineskins) full of air on their backs, who chase women and dance between two rows of makildantzaris or stick dancers. At one point the coalmen do a pirouette and run off to avoid being hit by the sticks of the mozos. The coalmen, with their faces painted black, chase after spectators in an attempt to dirty their faces.
• Lesaka: the zaku-zaharrak are characters wearing sacks filled with their faces covered by scarves. They carry pizontziak (inflated bladders), which they use to hit onlookers on the village streets at dusk. When they get tired, they sit on the floor, piled on top of each other to rest. Other characters from this carnival are the mairuak - women with wide-brimmed hats with strips of colour hanging down - and goitarrak, which are men and women that play the castanets, dressed in white with a beret, a red jersey and bells.
• Unanu: the "mamuxarros" are characters dressed in white with a red sash around their waists and a metal mask covering their faces. They wear large coloured scarves around their heads and neck, and have large menacing sticks that they use to hit people that are not dressed up. It is customary for their victims - usually young women - to kneel before their capturer, and after the "mamuxarro" makes the sign of a cross on the victim's forehead, she must kiss his knee.