Many of the age-old traditions, crafts, music, foods, and festivities of Navarra’s past, can still be seen today, all through the year, at the many magical Festivals and fairs that are held in this Pyrenees province.
Ancestral dances such as those of Ochagavía, brotherhood festivals like the Baztandarren Biltzarra, or unusual carnivals are some of the most spectacular events in the north of Navarra.
Here’s a list of Navarra Festival Highlights
The Rafters Day- Burgui
This festival takes place every spring at the end of April, or beginning of May.
It’s put on in order to commemorate and reenact the traditional work of those who rode rafts of tree trunks down the rivers for transport to other villages of the Navarra Pyrenees.
The rafts flow down the river Esca and end up at the medieval bridge of Burgui. Valleys included in this celebration are those of; Roncal, Salazar and Aézkoa.
After the rafts make their destination, there are a series of concerts, dances exhibitions, audiovisual screenings, rural sports, a craft fair, a giant feast and a ceremony to award the “Golden Rafter”.
Held in the pretty Pyrenean village of Ochagavía/Otsagabia in the first weekend of September, is the festival of Orhipean.
At this festival the whole town dresses up in traditional clothes to reenact the way it’s people were 100 years ago.
You’ll see women washing at the river, threshing cereal grains, spinning wool, and of course cooking wonderful old recipes.
Children play traditional games and do crafts in their period clothes, while the men go to the classic barber, partake in sports and demonstrate age-old occupations of the Pyrenees mountains.
One of the most important events of the celebration is the “matatxerri”, the slaughtering of the pig.
There are also demonstrations of traditional music, concerts, and exhibitions.
The ‘Tributo de las Tres Vacas’
The Tribute of the three cows is a very special ceremony in the Navarra Pyrenees mountains, and one of the oldest in Europe.
It has been held every year, without fail, on July 13th, for more than 600 years.
Celebrated at the Stone of San Martin, in Larra- between the Navarra Pyrenean valleys of Roncal and Baretous (France), it is basically a symbolic event which sees the meeting of 3 representatives, from both sides of the border, each with cow in tow, at a special stone to reenact an ancient ruling imposed by an arbitrator in 1375.
The ruling was made, and the ceremony imposed, in order to quel conflict between inhabitants of the valleys over land use.
The Béarnais make a perpetual payment of three cows a year, which, as the law says, must have; “the same quality of teeth, coat and horns.”
Before the the cows are given, the Béarnais, adorned in the French flag, and the Roncaleses, dressed in the typical clothing of the valley, renew their vow of peace.
This is symbolically affirmed by both parties placing their hands one on the other and repeating in unison; “pax avant, pax avant, pax avant”, -peace before.
This unique festival of fraternity is rounded off by the appointment of rangers who will watch over the pastures in the year to come, and followed by a big, boisterous lunch in the open air.
This is one of the largest and most representative celebrations of the Navarre Pyrenees mountains.
It’s usually held around the 19th of July in the town of Elizondo, in the beautiful valley of Baztán.
Festivities begin with a religious ceremony, after which people from 15 villages of the valley take part in a parade of floats that winds slowly around the town’s old streets.
Once the procession is finished, there is the magnificent “mutildantza” in the town hall square. It is tradition that only men may take part in this grand dance.
They are dressed in interesting local costumes and more and more of them join in the dance as the music, accompanied by the “txistu” (Basque flute), progresses.
As morning turns into afternoon, a giant lunch is prepared and held in the Market Square.
Throughout the day there are various stalls set up which exhibit and sell locally produced Pyrenees food, products and craft-work.
There are also many performances and concerts put on by local bands.