The history of the traditional verbenas of Madrid: San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Paloma

When we go deep into the most genuine features of Madrid, we find ourselves immersed into times of the past that can’t ever be forgotten. We are talking about the most deep-rooted traditions, those of embroidered Manila shawls, the chotis (originated from the Bohemian Schottische), and the chulapos. Is there a better way of getting familiar with the authentic Spanish tradition than by experiencing first-hand the verbenas of Madrid, namely San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Paloma? We think not. The verbenas are celebrated in the heart of the capital city of Spain during the first fortnight of August. Before you there’s a golden opportunity to book a hotel in the centre of Madrid and enjoy the most typically Madrilenian festivals of the entire year. Find a spot in your schedule and come to enjoy the colourful streets, lemonade, dances and competitions. But before that, let us tell you the peculiar origin of the verbenas.

A chotis competition in Madrid

The history of San Cayetano festivals

You will find the image of this saint in the San Cayetano Church, the place where faithful believers come every August 7th to kiss his right foot. During the procession, it is a common custom to get a flower from the throne, because according to the tradition it ensures you will have a job for a whole year. Do you know why? It’s because San Cayetano is the patron saint of the administrative managers and the unemployed.

History tells us San Cayetano was always on the side of the sick and the poor. As a matter of fact, in life he got rid of all his riches and never wanted anything for himself. When he had a pressing need, he rang a bell.

So, to celebrate San Cayetano, the locals still maintain the tradition of their ancestors who lived on the Oso street: to give away “limoná”, lemonade elaborated by them. This beverage contains white wine, lemon, sugar and cinnamon. It’s certainly a really good reason for staying in a hotel in the centre of Madrid and being able to enjoy the festivals without worrying about driving afterwards.

The origin of the verbena of San Lorenzo

Once the celebration is launched by the verbena of San Cayetano, the next in line is the San Lorenzo one. This saint, who lived in the third century, also held those in need close to his heart. After the Pope’s death, he was put in charge of doing an inventory of the riches. Instead, he gave up the treasures of the Church to be divided amongst the poor and the suffering, presenting his superiors with the poor people, who, in his words, were the Church’s heritage. As a consequence, he was sentenced to death by grilling on August 10th.

La Paloma of Madrid festivals

If there is one verbena transcending the others, it is La Paloma. Its name comes from a zarzuelita (a single-act Zarzuela) and it’s the mother of all festivals during the first fortnight of August. Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to stay in a hotel in the centre of Madrid and enjoy the celebration taking place in the La Latina neighbourhood.

So, really, what is the origin of La Paloma festivals? It’s a very interesting story, for it’s not paying homage to a figure, as it’s usually done, but a canvas painting. Back in 1787 a devoted woman called Isabel Tintero found some children playing with a painting of an image of a virgin in the streets. She rescued the painting and restored it, putting it on the door of her house. The painting grew famous over the years, until one day the people decided to build a church which would take in all believers who used to come to see the Virgin. The name La Paloma was chosen because of the street it was located in.

Would you like to experience in person the verbenas of San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Paloma?  Book a hotel in the centre of Madrid now, and enjoy this authentically Spanish tradition!

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