Today is July 25th, St. James Day, and that means it’s time for the largest festival in Santiago de Compostela. Below is an overview from CaminoWays of how the festival is celebrated in Santiago. I’ve also included an easy recipe for Galicia’s favorite dessert, Tarta de Santiago, a delicious cake made with almond flour.
St. James Festival in Santiago de Compostela
The last two weeks in July, the city of Santiago de Compostela celebrates its biggest festival of the year: St James Festival or the Apostle Festival (Festas do Apóstolo). St James is the patron saint of Santiago de Compostela but also Galicia; which means St James Day is also Galicia Day and a holiday in the region.
Many pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago aim to reach Santiago de Compostela for 25th July, St James Day. When St James Day falls on a Sunday, it will be considered a ‘holy’ or ‘xacobeo’ year. If you are planning your Camino de Santiago in July and arriving in the city after 15th July, you should definitely stay in Santiago for a few days to enjoy this unique festival. As the capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela attracts not only pilgrims but also many Galicians on those dates.
St James Festival celebrations in Santiago combine both religious and traditional elements with contemporary music, theatre, entertainment and a wide range of cultural events filling the city’s old town and its main squares. From free concerts by important artists to traditional music and dances, visiting Santiago de Compostela in July will reveal a very unique and special side of the city; as well as a close insight into Galician culture.
One of the most iconic events is the firework display on St James Day eve. On 24th July at midnight, locals and visitors gather at the Praza do Obradoiro to enjoy the traditional fireworks and display projected on the facade of Santiago Cathedral.
On July 25th, St James Day, Santiago Cathedral hosts its High Mass, usually attended by the king or a member of the Spanish Royal family and one of the special dates when you can see the ‘botafumeiro’ in use. On St James Day each year, many Galicians also travel to Santiago to celebrate Galician language and culture.
The St James festival in Santiago de Compostela is officially closed on 31st July with fireworks.
All over America, Camino pilgrims celebrate St. James Day in different ways. In the Bay Area, there are celebration potlucks and hikes. In 2016 it was held in Belmont, California.
I wasn’t at the event this year because I was immersing myself in yoga, but I attended the feast last year and was amazed at the attendees culinary talents and passion for Spanish food. Pilgrims know how to potluck! Just take a look of the potluck spread at a NorCal APOC chapter event earlier this year.
The star of the dessert table is always the Tarta de Santiago (Galician) or Torta de Santiago (Spanish). Because it’s made with almond flour it’s gluten free! Here’s a brief history of the desert and somewhat complicated recipe from La Tienda. If you don’t have time to grind marcona almonds and separate egg yolks, here’s an easier version.
Easy Tarta de Santiago Recipe:
Finely ground almonds or almond meal is available at most supermarkets; look for Bob’s Red Mill (www.bobsredmill.com) or other brands.
|Butter (for the pan)|
|1¼||cups granulated sugar|
|Grated rind of 1 lemon|
|Grated rind of 1 orange|
|¼||teaspoon pure almond extract|
|½||pound (about 2¼ cups) blanched almond meal (also called almond flour)|
|Confectioners’ sugar (for sprinkling)|
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper.
2. In an electric mixer, beat the eggs and granulated sugar on high speed for 5 minutes or until thickened and pale yellow. Beat in the lemon and orange rind and almond extract. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, beat in the almond meal and mix to blend. Pour the batter into the pan.
3. Bake the cake for 35 minutes or until it is golden, a little darker around the edge, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in the pan; unlatch the sides and lift off the ring. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cake to a platter.
4. Sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar. Adapted from “The Food of Spain”
Pilgrims, How do you celebrate St. James Day?