O Entroido in Galicia

Large cities, towns, villages,… Every corner of Galicia lives the entroido (Galician carnival) with intensity. Even if we don’t dress up, we eat and drink the delicacies of these dates: cocido, lacón con grelos, filloas, orellas, flores, bica, licor café, xastré… It is impossible to escape the entroido!

This festival of liberation, of partying, of singing, of dancing, of living the world upside down, has survived in rural Galicia, in small places where all the neighbours took part. If you dig a little deeper, you will find entroideira traditions everywhere. The most remote origin has to do with the rites of the celebration of spring, of sowing, of fertility, of the farewell to winter. Masks and customs that may have been intended to ward off evil spirits from the crops. In urban areas, the festival dates back to the end of the 19th century, imported from the countryside, but more “elegant”.

Despite the times of war, censorship or emigration, the Entroido has moved forward, and has reached our days with more strength than ever. This year, moreover, it has a special category, as it is protected as BIC (Intangible Heritage Asset of Cultural Interest). It is worth highlighting the efforts of many associations and groups to preserve the tradition and recover almost forgotten festivities that have been reborn.

The entroido is so important in Galicia that it is the longest in all of Europe, as the entire cycle spans no less than five weeks, although it does not last the same length everywhere, of course. At the moment, Xinzo de Limia’s is the longest, this year, from 20 January to 18 February. However, with variations and evolution of customs, there are more or less common days in the festival: domingo fareleiro or borralleiro (flour Sunday, when the jokes begin, people get dirty in flour or ashes), domingo oleiro or corredoiro (the next Sunday, in the past there were cockfights, today there is the game of the pots, ants are thrown, the routes begin…), xoves de comadres (Thursday of the comadres, when women make a doll representing the men to burn it and the men tried to steal it; women dress up as men), xoves de compadres (the same but in reverse), Domingo de Entroido (Entroido Sunday, the main festival begins), Luns de Entroido (Entroido Monday), Martes de Entroido (Entroido Tuesday, the big day), Mércores de Cinza (Ash Wednesday, the end of the festival, burial of the sardine) and Domingo de piñata (Sunday of piñata). Generally, the big festival is Entroido Sunday and Entroido Tuesday or Martes Lardeiro. This year 2024, the Martes de Entroido is on the 13th of February.

As for the masks, they are very varied, and many have names that you don’t even know where they come from. But, depending on the area, they follow similar patterns. The masks from Ourense are colourful, they usually cover the face, and they are scary and, beware, sometimes they even hit. Among them, for example: the cigarróns of Verín; the boteiros of Vilariño de Conso, Manzaneda and Viana do Bolo; the verrallóns of Riós; the troiteiros of Bande; the murrieiros of Teixeira; the peliqueiros of Laza; the bonitas of Sande; the charrúas of Allariz; the pantallas of Xinzo; the vergalleiros of Sarreaus… In the Atlantic area, they are also full of colour, but they usually wear their faces uncovered and act in a more group-like way, such as: the xenerais da Ulla; the madamitas and madamitos of Cercedo-Cotobade; the damas and galáns of Cangas and Vilaboa… However, there are other more peculiar masks, such as the mecos of Froxás das Viñas; the volantes of Ribeira do Miño; the Oso of Salceda; the merdeiros of Vigo…

And there is no party without music. In the rural entroido, in addition to the brass bands, parades and popular groups, the music comes from a hubbub of cowbells and drums, which imposes a kind of atavistic beat, which we imagine in other times resounding among the mountains. In many areas there are folións or fulións, formations of several neighbours that parade through the villages playing drums, farm implements, horns…

In the province of Ourense, the entroido is deeply experienced. This is where the so-called Magic Triangle is located, which has Verín, Laza and Xinzo de Limia as vertices. The latter, by the way, is home to the Museo Galego do Entroido.

As well as being a celebration full of ethnological and anthropological interest, the Galician Entroido arouses curiosity beyond our borders, and is becoming an important tourist attraction. So far these are the entroidos considered FIT (festival of tourist interest): Xinzo de Limia (of international interest), Verín (of national interest), Viana do Bolo, Cobres, Laza, Manzaneda, Os Xenerais da Ulla, Maceda, Vilariño de Conso, Foz and Marín.

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