The Matarraña/Matarranya region is home to one of the Aragon’s richest and most unique heritages in terms of festivities and traditions. Beside the ancient traditions, new ones have been emerging in the different villages of Matarraña over time and can be enjoyed throughout the year.
The festive calendar starts with the feast of Sant Antoni, a ‘Fiesta of Aragon Tourist Interest’. Most of the villages celebrate this day with bonfires, the blessing of animals and tenders or ‘plegas’ of typical local produce.
In Valderrobres, ‘los dichos’ (a satiric review of the most important happenings of the year) are recited straight after the holy procession.
In La Fresneda, La Portellada or Torre del Compte, ‘los diablets’ (devils) appear to liven up the party and frighten children in the street.
In Torre de Arcas, ‘La Esquellada’ is a very popular tradition, in which children go around the village ringing bells (‘esquelles’) in order to get sweets from the locals.
The feast of Santa Águeda takes place at the very beginning of February and is celebrated in most villages. Women are the main focus of the festivity they organise each of the time-honoured events: processions, meals, parties and the traditional distribution of ‘mamelletes’ (cakes shaped like breasts).
In some villages like Cretas or Calaceite, the municipal council that day is made up only of women.
Carnaval (Carnival), in February, is another of the Matarraña festivities. Children and adults in fancy dress attend the different events like parties and parades.
The Matarraña Semana Santa (Holy Week) is influenced by some villages from Bajo Aragón, since different types of drums are played in Valderrobres, Valdeltormo and Calaceite.
The most impressive festivity is Easter Monday, ‘dilluns de Pascua’, when people have dinner and or a picnic in the countryside and eat the traditional ‘mona de Pascua’ (a chocolate figure).
The feast of San Jorge (Aragon’s patron saint) takes place on 23 April. Catalan traditions are celebrated in the region at places like Cretas, Beceite and Calaceite, where different groups organise ‘La fiesta del libro y de la rosa’ (giving books and roses).
Another surviving tradition is that of the several regional pilgrimages:
- Valderrobres: in ‘ermita dels Sants’;
- Peñarroya de Tastavins: ‘la Mare de Deu de la Font’;
- Monroyo: ‘la Mare de Deu de la Consolació’;
- Torre de Arcas: ‘Sant Bernart’;
- La Fresneda: ‘la Mare de Deu de Gràcia’;
- Fuentespalda: ‘San Pere Mártir’;
- Fórnoles: ‘la Mare de Deu de Montserrate’;
- Ráfales: ‘Sant Rafael’;
- Valjunquera: ‘Santa Bárbara’;
- Torre del Compte: ‘Sant Joan’;
- Calaceite: ‘San Cristóbal and Santa Ana’;
- Mazaleón: ‘San Cristóbal and Santa Bárbara’;
- Cretas: ‘la Mare de Deu de la Misericordia’;
- Lledó: ‘Santa Rosa de Viterbo’;
- Arens de Lledó: ‘Sant Pol’;
- La Portellada: ‘San Miguel’;
- Beceite: ‘San Miguel and Santa Ana’.
San Juan, which takes place in some of the region’s villages, such as Cretas, Torre del Compte and Arens de Lledó, welcomes in the summer with bonfires being lit at night.
All villages celebrate their local feast days in the summer, and many celebrations that originally took place at other times of the year have been moved to these dates. The city councils and Festivities Committees organise celebrations in honour of ‘Virgen de la Asunción’, ‘San Roque’, ‘Santiago’, ‘San Sebastián’, ‘San Bartolomé’, ‘San Miguel’ or ‘La Virgen del Pilar’ in the different villages.
‘La Trobada Cultural del Matarranya’ is also held in summer, an itinerant festival organised by the Asociación Cultural del Matarraña (the region’s cultural association) to promote Matarraña culture.
Various fairs and exhibitions are also long-established, some of which date from the Middle Ages:
‘La Feria del Olivo y del Aceite’ in Calaceite; ‘la Feria del Vino’ in Cretas; ‘la Feria de Antigüedades, Artes y Oficios’ in La Fresneda; ‘la Feria de Maquinaria Agrícola y Ganado’, and ‘la Muestra de Artesanía’ in Valderrobres; ‘la Feria de Alimentos y Artesanía del Maestrazgo’ in Monroyo; ‘el Día dels Bolets’ en Beceite; ‘la Feria de Recursos Naturales y Medio Ambiente’ in Ráfales.
Other traditions are still celebrated at Christmas, such as ‘El Tronc de Nadal’ on Christmas Eve in Mazaleón and Calaceite, and ‘Los Calderons’ at Epiphany in La Fresneda. ‘El Tronc de Nadal’ (the Christmas trunk) involves adults placing an empty trunk at home, near the fireplace, and filling it with sweets and presents. Children hit it heavily with sticks and canes and wait until the ‘Tronc’ releases all the sweets and small toys. ‘Los Calderons’ tradition is focused on children from La Fresneda, who go around all the streets with a rope full of noisy items in order to catch people’s attention as a reminder for the Three Wise Men not to forget them.