Interesting Facts About Spain   Flag of Spain

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1. In Spain, most people celebrate their name day.  In Spanish, it is called el día de tu santo.  If you have the same name as a saint or a name related to the story of a saint, then you will have a name day. 
On every day of the year at least one name is celebrated. 
On special occasions like this, people say
¡Felicidades! (Best wishes.) 

2.  In Spain, it has always been the tradition to have two surnames, as follows:
The first is your father's first surname and the second is your mother's first surname. 
The father's surname has always been considered to be more important and positioned first, meaning that only the father's surname is carried forward to the next generation.

Here is an example:  A man is called Jaime López García. 
When Jaime marries a lady called Elena Martín Pérez, their children's surnames will be López Martín.   Only the men's surnames survive - those of Jaime's father and Elena's father.

A NEW LAW:  Many people have considered the Spanish naming tradition to be unfair, so from 1 July 2017 a new law means that parents can choose which surname should be positioned first.  It gives mothers' surnames more equality!

The word for 'surname' is 'apellido.'  Some of the most common Spanish surnames are - García, Rodríguez, Martínez, Martín, Fernández, López, González, Sánchez and Pérez.

3.  In addition to Spain, the Spanish language is spoken in the following countries-
Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea,

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua,
Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela. 

Spanish is also spoken in parts of-
Andorra, Belize, Gibraltar, Morocco, the Philippines
and the USA.

4.  In Spain, the Spanish language is officially called Castilian (el castellano).  There are other Spanish languages spoken there too, such as, Catalan (el catalán), Galician (el gallego), Basque (el vasco or el euskera), Valencian (el valenciano).

5. Spanish people love to sing and dance.  The most famous type of Spanish music is Flamenco in the south of Spain.  Flamenco music has three ingredients: el cante (the song), el baile (the dance), and el toque (the guitar playing).
To watch a Flamenco video click HERE.

Spanish dancing        
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.  Creator of photo: Gilles Larrain.  The picture portrays Belén Maya, a Flamenco dancer.)            

6.  Other types of Spanish music and dance are - bolero, fandango, farruca, jota, malaguena, paso doble, seguidilla.

In Spanish-speaking parts of Latin America, these dances originated - habanera, mambo, rumba, salsa, tango.

7.  In the city of Seville (Sevilla) there is a form of Flamenco dance called la sevillana.  Every April there is a big festival called la Feria de Sevilla.  At this festival you see the local people dancing sevillanas.  Everyone wears traditional Flamenco dress.   Girls and ladies spend a lot of time discussing the colour of their dresses, hooped earrings and flowers for their hair. 

Feria de Sevilla
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Ed Tarwinski.)

Spanish music
To hear some Sevillana music, click on the button and go to Track 24.

La Feria de Abril de Sevilla lasts for one week and starts on Monday two weeks after Easter Day.  Each year, there is a poster to advertise the event.
Approximately one million people attend the festival. 
It began as a cattle market in 1847 with tents erected for the selling of the animals. 
Nowadays, the tents are striped in bright colours and inside there is music and dancing.  The tents are called casetas (little houses).  Most of the casetas are erected in an area of the festival known as El Real de la Feria, and there are around one thousand of them.

Every year, there is a temporary gateway to the Feria, called La Portada.  Below is the gateway of 2007.  The gateway is covered in electric light bulbs so that it is is lit up at night time.  There is a special opening ceremony when the lights of the festival are switched on.  This ceremony is called El Alumbrado.

Feria de Sevilla
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Torchondo.)

Below is the gateway of 2008:
Feria de Sevilla 
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Lobillo.)

Below is the very first gateway to the Seville Fair.

Seville Fair
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, the original photo hangs in El Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares de Sevilla.)

Each day there is a fairground known as 'the street of hell'  (La Calle del Infierno), horse parades, bullfights, dancing and music, and general merry-making! 
At the end of the week of festivities, there are fireworks.  The way to say 'fireworks' in Spanish is 'los fuegos artificiales.'
It is well-known that people (including children) return home at dawn following a night at La Feria de Sevilla. 

8.  During the hot summer, Spanish ladies cool themselves with a hand-held fan called 'un abanico.' 
Although the fan is believed to have originated in China, it is known to have been used in Spain by the nobility as early as in the 14th Century.  It was a fine and expensive object made from palm leaves, straw, silk and feathers - including peacock feathers.  In those times, people who carried a fan were considered to be of high class.  


9.  The mantilla is a lace head-dress for ladies.  It is worn on special occasions.  At traditional Spanish weddings, the bride wears one.

10.  Traditional Spanish musical instruments are the guitar (la guitarra) and castanets (las castañuelas.)

11.  A traditional Spanish pastime between March and October is to go to an arena to watch a bullfight (una corrida de toros.)  The official name for this event is La Fiesta Nacional
corrida de toros 
The area of Cataluña in Spain has voted to ban bullfighting.   There is one other area where this ban already exists: The Canary Islands (Las Islas Canarias) since 1991.

The earliest recorded Spanish bullfights took place in the 11th. century.
The oldest bullfighting arena (plaza de toros) is in the town of Ronda in Southern Spain.  It was opened in 1785.

The most famous bullfighter is Pedro Romero from Ronda.  He was born in 1754.  During his career he killed over five thousand bulls without ever being hurt.  He died in 1839. 
Below is his portrait, painted by famous Spanish artist Francisco Goya.

Pedro Romero by the Spanish painter Goya 
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

12.  The drink known as sherry comes from the Spanish town of Jerez and the surrounding area.  The full name of the town is Jerez de la Frontera. 
The word for sherry in Spanish is the same as the name of the town:- jerez. 
Sherry is a strong wine and it comes in four varieties -
(very dry and pale in colour),
(dry with a nutty flavour),
oloroso (full flavour and dark colour),
  (meaning 'camomile' because it looks like it. ) 

If you go to the famous Feria de Sevilla (mentioned earlier on this page) you will see that sherry is a popular drink.

13.  One of the most important foods in Spain is rice (arroz).  It is the main ingredient in la paella which is one of the most famous traditional dishes of Spain.  La paella is cooked in a very big frying pan called la paellera and traditionally it is cooked outside in the open air. 
It is a mixture of rice, meat, seafood and vegetables.

Rice pudding (arroz con leche) is one of the favourite desserts in Spain.
Before eating, it is polite to say ¡Buen provecho! meaning 'Enjoy your meal!'

14.  Saffron is a yellow-coloured spice which is used a lot in Spanish cookery.  This is why the rice of la paella is yellow.

15.  Potato omelette (la tortilla española) is a very popular dish in Spain. 
In Spanish homes, everyone seems to be very good at tossing the omelette (just like a pancake), so that it can be cooked on the other side.  

Spanish cookery 

16.  The Spanish flag is rojo, amarillo, rojo.  There is the Spanish coat of arms on the yellow stripe.  There is a legend that the yellow represents the sand of the bull-fighting arena and the red is for the bulls' blood.

The Spanish coat of armsFlag of Spain 
The capital city of Spain is Madrid.  It is the largest city of Spain and is built on the River Manzanares.  The symbol of Madrid is 'a bear eating from a strawberry tree'.  This symbol is called El Oso y El Madroño. 
Below is the symbol of Madrid and a famous statue of the bear in La Puerta Del Sol, the main square of Madrid.

(Photo by Javier Carro, source: Wikimedia Commons)

17.  The patron saint of Spain is Saint James (Santiago).  His relics are kept in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Northern Spain.  Below are some photos of the city.
Santiago de Compostela
(Photos by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez.  Wikimedia Commons.)

18.  When having a Spanish telephone conversation, the very first words spoken are - 
By the person who answers the phone : Diga or Dime
(Tell me / Say)
By the person who makes the phone call:  Oiga or Oye
(Hear / Listen).

Spanish telephone conversation

19. When the British town crier shouts Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! he is telling everyone to hear what he has to say. 
This is similar to the Spanish word
'¡Oye!'  (Hear!)
The same can be said for when you shout 'Oy!' to someone!
These words come from the Latin verb audire - to hear. 

20.  There used to exist a night watchman in every Spanish town.  He would walk around the town during night-time, lighting street lights and shouting out the time.  He was known as el sereno.

21.  The most famous Spanish artists are :
17th Century - Diego Velázquez,
18th Century - Francisco Goya
19th Century - Jaoquin Sorolla
20th Century - Pablo Picasso
                 Salvador Dali
             Joan Miró
To read about Pablo Picasso, click HERE. 

The painting below is the very famous work called 'An Old Woman Frying Eggs.'  In Spanish, it is called 'Vieja friendo huevos.'  It was painted by Diego Velázquez in 1618 and at the moment it can be seen at the National Gallery in Edinburgh!

Painting by Velazquez
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.) 

22.  The Spanish make of car is SEAT. 
The company began in 1950. 
The letters SEAT stand for Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, (Spanish Society for Touring Cars.)

23.  One of the most famous department stores to be found in Spanish town centres is called El Corte Inglés.  This name means 'English Dressmaking'. 
It began as a small tailor's shop in Madrid in 1934.  Nowadays, it sells everything - food, clothes, ornaments, furniture, etc.......

24.  In Spanish punctuation there is an upside-down question mark ¿ at the beginning of a question and a normal one at the end.   In written Spanish, there is also an upside-down exclamation mark.  ¡Ay!

25.  In Spain, the main meal of the day is at lunch time.  Shops close during this time for several hours.  After lunch, many people rest or take a nap.  This is called a 'siesta.'

26.  King Henry VIII's first wife was Spanish.  She was called  Catherine of Aragon.  To read more about her, click HERE.

Catherine of Aragon
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, source Tudor Place)

 27.  The pomegranate is the symbol of the Spanish city of Granada. 
It can also be seen on the Spanish coat of arms. 
A crowned pomegranate was the personal symbol of Catherine of Aragon.  
In Spanish, the word for pomegranate is granada, just like the name of the Spanish city.  In fact, many people believe that the city of Granada was named after the fruit because the pomegranate grows in abundance there.
Below you can see the official symbol of the City of Granada, in the shape of a crowned pomegranate and with a smaller pomegranate inside, too.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

28.  Spain has a royal family.  
Since 19 June 2014, the king of Spain (el rey de España) is Felipe VI and his wife the queen (la reina de España) is Letizia.  They have two daughters called Leonor and Sofía.
The official residence of the Spanish royal family is El Palacio Real de Madrid (photo below). 

Spanish Royal Family
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Diego.)

About the Spanish Royal Family:
Su Majestad = Your Majesty

According to Spanish tradition, the heir to the throne is called 'príncipe' (prince) or 'princesa' (princess).
Spanish princes and princesses who are not going to become King or Queen are called the infante (m) or the infanta (f). This title means 'an infant or child of noble birth.
Therefore, the two daughters of the king and queen are: la Princesa Leonor and la Infanta Sofía.


29.  In Spain, it is common for families to employ a maid
(una criada), especially in families where there is a professional parent, e.g. a doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc.......

30.  Spain is famous for producing beautiful horses with arched necks and long manes.  The Andalusian horse from Spain (el caballo andaluz) is believed to be the oldest breed of riding-horse in the world.

The word for horse is el caballo.  The Spanish word for gentleman is el caballero (meaning- 'man on horseback')Before the invention of cars, a man on horseback was of a higher class than a man on foot.

Below is an Andalusian horse doing a 'Spanish walk.' 
Do you see the horse's arched shape?

Spanish horse
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, original source: Eigene Aufnahmen.  Animation by Waugsberg.)

31.   Although Christopher Columbus was Italian, he became an explorer for the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (the parents of Catherine of Aragon) in the 15th Century. 
 He made four voyages to the Americas by ship across the Atlantic Ocean and proved that the world is a sphere and NOT flat as people believed at that time. 
On his first voyage, he took three ships called -
La Niña, La Pinta and La Santa María. 
Below is a replica of La Santa María.

replica of the ship Santa Maria
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Dietrich Bartel.)

The exact date when Christopher Columbus
(Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) arrived in America
(12 October, 1492) is celebrated every year in Spain. 
For this reason, the date of 12 October is a national holiday in Spain called La Fiesta Nacional de España. 
It is also known as El Día de la Hispanidad.  There are lots of parades, and the King of Spain always takes part in the celebrations in Madrid.

Spanish musicTo hear a song about Columbus' three ships, click on the button and go to Track 12. 
(This song is sung in Italian) 

32.  The tomb of Christopher Columbus is in Seville Cathedral, Southern Spain.  It is held by the statues of four kings.  Each king represents a kingdom of Spain. The four kingdoms are - León, Castilla, Aragón and Navarra.

tomb of Christopher Columbus 
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

33.  The Spanish national anthem is called
La Marcha Real (The Royal March). It has no official words.
Click on the button and go to Track 39.

34.  Christmas Eve is very important in Spain.  It is called Nochebuena (The good night) and it is a very happy occasion with lots of parties.  
Families eat a special meal on the night of 24 December. 

  Spanish christmas
(To read more about Christmas in Spain, click HERE)

35.  Christmas Day is called El Día de Navidad. 

36.  The 6 January is the most important day of Christmas in Spain. 
This is known as the day of The Three Kings (Los Reyes).  This is the day when children receive most presents.  The Three Kings arrive during the night of 5 January and leave presents for the children. 

Children leave letters for the Kings, telling them the gifts they would like to receive.  They place their shoes outside on the balcony, outside their bedroom door or beside their bed - hoping to find them filled with treats and surrounded by presents in the morning!

Spanish christmas traditionChristmas in Spain

37.  Every town has processions on the 5 January.  Sweets are thrown from the passing floats.

38.  On 5 January, a special cake is prepared all over Spain.  It is called Roscón de Reyes.  It is a ring-shape and is covered in coloured jellies. 
The jellies represent the sparkling jewels worn by The Three Kings who followed the star to find The Baby Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem. 
Inside the cake, there are little lucky charms.  The Spanish belief is that if you find one of these charms in your cake, it will bring you good luck for the new year.

39.  The last night of the year is called La Nochevieja (the old night). 
At New Year, it is the tradition to eat twelve grapes at midnight - one grape for each stroke of the clock.  Those who eat the twelve grapes believe they will have twelve 
months of good luck.  One grape is eaten for each month.  The grapes are known as Las uvas de la suerte, (the lucky grapes.)
twelve grapes at midnight, Spanish New Year

40.  In Spain, the bars serve small plates of food to accompany a drink.  This small dish is called a tapa.  
The tradition of the tapa began in the city of Seville in Southern Spain.  
The word tapa actually means a 'lid'.  Originally, the workers would go to a tavern after a hard day's work.  
Their glasses of wine or beer would be covered with a slice of food (just like a lid) to keep the flies and dust away from the drink underneath. 

  Spanish tapas   Tapas   
        Spanish tapa                 
  Nowadays, the tapa is food served on a little plate beside the drink. 
It is no longer used as a lid on top of the glass.

Spanish food
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

41.  A popular way to eat fish in Spain is to soak it in vinegar, herbs and wine.  Then, it is fried in batter.  It is called el pescado en adobo.
Spanish food

42.  Spain, with Portugal,  belongs to the Iberian Peninsula.  The national Spanish airline is called Iberia.

43.  The oldest restaurant in the world is in Madrid.  It was orignally called Casa Botín and it opened in 1725.  Now it is called Restaurante Sobrino de Botín and its address is calle de Cuchilleros, 17.

Image by Esetena.  Wikimedia Commons.

44.  The two main newspapers in Spain are
El País
(The Country) and El Mundo (The World).

Spanish newspaper

45.  The University of Salamanca is very old and famous.  It was founded around 1220. There is a frog carved in the stone wall above the main entrance to the University. 
It is said that if you can 'spot the frog' you will have good luck. Traditionally, students go to see the frog for good
luck before any important exams!

(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

46.  Pablo Picasso (Pablo means 'Paul') was born in Málaga in Southern Spain in 1881.  His father was an art teacher. 
Picasso produced more works than any other artist:- thousands of paintings, engravings, prints, book illustrations, ceramics and sculptures. 

Pablo Picasso
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, original source in Argentina:
magazine Vea y Lea, 1962.)

In the Spanish tradition, Pablo Picasso had TWO surnames - Ruiz and Picasso.  
His full
name was VERY long indeed!  To find out about his long name and for more information about his life
click HERE.

47.  The Spanish coastline is divided into sections -
Costa Brava (Rugged Coast),
Costa Blanca (White Coast),
Costa Dorada
(Golden Coast),
Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun),
Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light),
Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast),
Costa Tropical (Tropical Coast),
Costa Cálida (Hot Coast),
Costa Vasca (Basque Coast),
Costa Rubicón (Red Coast).

48.  There is NOT a tooth fairy in Spain.  Instead, there is a tooth mouse and his name is Ratoncito Pérez.

Ratoncito Perez

49.  Spain has won the Football World Cup just once - in 2010.  But they have won the Golf World Cup many times! 

The national Spanish football team is nicknamed
La Furia Roja (The Red Fury). 
 The word for the sport 'football' in Spanish is 'el fútbol.'

 50.  In Spain, houses are painted white or a pale colour on the outside.  White and light colours reflect sunlight and this helps to keep the house cool inside, especially during the very hot summer. 
Spanish floors are tiled.  This also helps to keep the house cool in summer.  Spain produces very beautiful floor tiles. 

The windows of Spanish houses usually have blinds or  shutters, letting the air through but shutting out the light.  This helps to keep the rooms cool during the hot summer.

Especially in the south, windows and doors often have decorative metal bars and railings on the outside to protect them.

51.  Every year, in Valencia, there is a very important festival called Las Fallas (The Torches). 
It is a celebration of Saint Joseph's Day.  During a two week period in March, the Valencian people celebrate continually from morning until night.  There are parties, fireworks, processions and music.

 Most importantly, the people build 'dolls' called 'ninots' made from wood, cardboard and wax. These are positioned like monuments in the streets and are known as las fallas. 

Image of la falla, in the main square of Valencia, March 2018,  by Falconaumanni

On the last night of the festivities (the 19 March) the people set fire to las fallas - that is why the festival is called 'torches'. 
Every year, the 'ninot' which is voted to be the best is saved from being burned and is placed in the Ninot Museum.
The fire brigade is always involved in the event to keep the
people safe as it is very dangerous! 
Below is the poster, advertising Las Fallas for the years 2008 and 2016.


52.  One of the greatest Spanish writers was Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, known simply as Cervantes.  He was born in Alcalá de Henares, 20 miles from Madrid, in 1547.  He wrote novels, plays and poems but his most famous work was
El ingenioso hidalgo de Don Quijote de la Mancha, (1605).   

Every October, there is a two-week celebration in Cervantes' home town.  This period is called La Semana Cervantina and it is a celebration of the great writer. 
The people dress up in 16th Century clothes and there are markets selling goods in the style of 400 years ago. 

It is very interesting that Cervantes died on the very same day as William Shakespeare, on April 23, 1616.
(Below is a portrait of Cervantes.  Painted by Juan de Jáuregui.)

(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)
To read more about Cervantes, click HERE.

53.  Around the year 1040, a Spanish nobleman was born.  His full name was Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar.  His nickname was El Cid, meaning 'the chief.'   He was educated in the royal court and
became a great leader in the king's army, helping to defeat the Moors.

El Cid rode a beautiful, white horse named Babieca (meaning - foolish).  It is one of the most famous horses in history.  El Cid loved his horse and had chosen it against the advice of his godfather who thought that the horse was not very clever.  That is why people called it Babieca.
Below is a picture of a statue in Burgos.  It portrays El Cid on his famous horse.

el Cid 
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author: Escarlati.)

There is a legend that El Cid died just before an important battle in 1099.  The wife of El Cid strapped his dead body to his horse. The body was dressed in armour, to make it appear to the army that their great leader was still alive.  The soldiers, unaware that El Cid was dead, rode bravely into battle, following him, and they won! 

The sword of El Cid can be seen in the Museum of Burgos. The name of the sword is Tizona.

Photo by Infinauta, Wikimedia Commons

It is believed to be one of the most precious possessions of the Spanish Royal Family.
The tomb of El Cid and his wife Jimena can be found inside Burgos Cathedral.

Image by Zarateman, Wikimedia Commons.

54.  In the northern town of Pamplona, there is a very famous festival every year from 6 to 14 July.  It is a celebration of the town's saint - San Fermín. 

At 8 o' clock each morning, a rocket is fired and six bulls are released to run wild along a prepared route.  Local people and tourists show how brave they are by running in front of the charging bulls.  Many people are injured and sometimes they are killed. 
This 'running of the bulls' is known in Spanish as
'el encierro.'
The half-mile route that the bulls are forced to follow takes them to the town's bullfighting arena where they will be later involved in the bullfights.

Running of the bulls 
(Image above portraying a scene from 'the running of the bulls', from Wikimedia Commons.  Author: Baltasar García.  Photo
licensed under Creative Commons.)

55.   In a village called Buñol, near Valencia, there is a crazy festival every year on the last Wednesday of August. 
It is called La Tomatina and it is the biggest tomato fight in the world!  Thousands of people flock to the village to join in the tomato-throwing event.  Lorries arrive, loaded full of tomatoes.  At around midday, the tomato fight begins and it lasts for one hour. 

Spanish festival tomatinaTomato fightSpanish festival tomatina Tomato fightSpanish festival tomatina
There are some important rules: - first of all, someone has to climb up a greased pole where there is a leg of ham at the top.

(Above: greasing the pole.)

When that person manages to fetch the ham (el jamón) the tomato fight can begin!  
The tomatoes must be squashed before you throw them, so that they are soft and do not hurt anyone
and everyone must stop throwing them when one hour is up. 

At the end of the event, the roads are in a terrible state so people use hosepipes to clean the place.
This traditional event dates back to 1945.  It has become one of the most popular summer festivals in Spain!

To read more about La Tomatina, click HERE.