The ‘Tamborrada’ of San Sebastian is a festival held every year on January 20, the St. Sebastian´s Patron Saint´s Day. During the 24 hours the festival lasts, participants dressed as either cooks or military drummers from the Napoleonic period, march as ‘tamborradas’ playing drums and barrels throughout the streets of the city.
Origin of the Tamborrada
Although the origin is not clear, it is believed that the root of the Tamborrada dates back to 1836, mixing the local carnival with the patron saint´s day, which was celebrated with drum parades along the streets of the city. In the beginning people who took part were dressed up, but later they began to appear wearing Gipuzkoan soldiers´ uniforms, similar to the ones used by the French army. As the number of companies participating in the ‘Tamborrada’ increased, new participants started to appear in different uniforms.
How it is celebrated
In the evening of the 19th people usually gather for dinner either in gourmet clubs or in restaurants. After dinner everybody goes to the ‘Plaza de la Constitución’ (Old Town) where, at midnight, the ‘Tamborrada’ festival kicks off with the raising of the city flag and the singing of the traditional “San Sebastián March”, followed by other popular songs. The melodies are performed by the members of the ‘Sociedad Gastronómica Gaztelubide’ (gourmet club) together with representatives from different clubs.
This year, throughout following 24 hours, 140 ‘tamborradas’ have made the streets alive pounding out their songs.
Around 17.000 neighbours in San Sebastian have taken part in this ‘tamborradas’, which are usually composed by military drums, barrels, water-carriers, and a flag-bearer, accompanied as well by a brass band.
Since 1962, a Children´s Tamborrada has been held, becoming nowadays an important part of the festival. At 12:00 o´clock near 5000 boys and girls from all the schools in San Sebastián march through the streets of the city providing an incomparable spectacle. Traditionally, they dressed as soldiers from Napoleonic times, but as in the adult ‘tamborradas’, they wear diverse uniforms now.
At 24:00 pm on January 20th, the members of the gastronomic club ‘Unión Artesana’ are in charge of bringing the festivity to an end, while the flag of the city is lowered at different locations.
Marches played at the ‘Tamborrada’
The most emblematic marches played at this drumming parade were composed by the musician Raimundo Sarriegui in 1861. The traditional lyrics was written by Serfafin Baroja, also a native from San Sebastián.
From my point of view, ‘La Tamborrada’ of San Sebastian is an amazing festival. Being at the Constitución Square for the hoisting and the lowering of the city flag is quivering. Listening to all these people (according to the press,, up to 8.000 people were assembled there this January, 29th, 2017. Playing and singing their songs, honestly, made me feel envious. I have never felt this sense of pride about my own roots. It was my second time enjoying this festival but I will go back for sure and then, I will be able to join them singing, at least, the San Sebastian March.