Firstly, who is Saint James? Well, he’s the patron saint of Spain and was one of the twelve apostles (disciples) of Jesus who travelled the world spreading the world of the gospel after the ascension of Jesus back to heaven.
St. James’ Day, also known as the feast of St. James, is a Christian Holiday celebrated by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and some Protestant churches on July 25th. It is especially celebrated in Santiago de Compostela (the capital of Galicia in Spain), where it’s thought that Saint James’ remains are held, which has made it a place of Pilgrimage since the 9th century. The Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) leads pilgrims from all across Europe to St. James’ Tomb to ask for pardon for their sins.
It is still tradition today to embark on this pilgrimage in order to arrive at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela for the holy feast of St. James on the 25th July. They celebrate at the cathedral with a special church service during the day, which includes the traditional swinging of a large incense burner at full speed to fill the church, as well as a spectacular show of music, fireworks and lasers that illuminate the cathedral walls at night. Processions of carnival groups, street shows, art exhibitions, dance, music, eating and drinking takes place during the day in the streets of Santiago de Compostela and carries on well into the next morning. They even have some more unique displays in the street shows, such as paper-mache Cabezudos (costumed figures) along with Galician pipers playing traditional songs.
So where does the ‘feast’ part of St James’ Day come into it? Well, food is part of the celebrations, with a mix of traditional and modern dishes eaten on this day. Eating scallops is the main food tradition, as these saltwater clams that are found on the shores around Galicia and are the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. The grooves in the shell which meet at a single point represent the different routes that pilgrims travel to the final destination at the tomb of Saint James. Many people wear scallops from the beginning of their journey to the end and eating scallops on the day of St. James is said to ensure good health and wealth for the next year.
This is a traditional celebration of religious significance that takes place in Santiago de Compostela in July but is also celebrated with special church services in Spain and around the world. Camino de Santiago pilgrimage is an arduous but rewarding journey to embark on, especially as it covers such a beautiful part of the world and people are said to learn a lot about themselves on this journey. The religious holiday deserves respect from those visiting the area whilst those who celebrate take part in a day of merrymaking to honour the life of the patron saint of Spain.
Chloe is a content creator with a passion for writing, photography, graphic design and making music. She loves experimenting with creative media and has a desire to work in the music and media industries in the future.