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All you need to know about the Feria in 5 minutes

Young people enjoying the Bayonne festival
Whether you’re for or against bullfighting, the Feria is so much more! You’ll soon develop a taste for it... In 5 minutes, you’ll know all there is to know about this unmissable tradition of the Basque Country and South-West France. Dressed all in white and red, you’ll be ready to join the festayres.
Festayre

The name given to those taking part in the feria. That means you, too.

Feria: the hows and why

Originally, a feria was a trade fair or festival to celebrate a saint, mark the passing agricultural seasons, or celebrate the harvest. Arles, for example, has its rice feria in September, and its Easter feria, too. Nîmes celebrates the grape harvest and Pentecost. Mont-de-Marsan celebrates its patron saint, Sainte-Madeleine, in July. Bayonne just loves to party!

Dress code

Red and white, nothing else! Unless you go to Mont-de-Marsan, where they ditched red for blue to stand out from their compatriots. It’s up to you which suits you best. As for the red and white, that’s down to Luis Mariano. A regular at the Pamplona feria where red and white are the iconic colours, the Spanish Basque tenor imported the tradition to Bayonne in 1969, when he was invited to officially launch the feria.

Rise and shine, Léon!

A real mascot for the Bayonne Festivals, King Léon symbolically hands the keys to the city over to the rapturous crowd on the first night, officially opening the festivities. Lazy as they come, his court, led by giants (the Jester, the Marshall, the Chocolatier, the Governess, the Doctor, and the Favourite) has to come and drag him out of bed every morning. Wait beneath the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville to wake up His Majesty! It is a ceremony that you might also see in other cities, who adopted it as their own.

Immortal

Since 2010, the feria (in Nîmes or Bayonne, whichever is the most prestigious, you’ve got to stand up for your culture and traditions!) has been listed as part of France’s cultural heritage.

Ready for paquito?

There’s no feria without paquito. Sit yourself down between the legs of the person behind you. Make a space for the person in front. Lift your arms and swing left to right, front and back. Watch out, somebody is going to go for it! Lying flat out, carried arm in arm, they have to get to the other end of the paquito. Don’t drop them!

Banda or peña?

Don’t get them mixed up! The first are brass bands that wander the city making a joyous din. The second are groups of friends who... also wander the city making a joyous din. Just without the instruments. Usually...

The Agur, the Basque National Anthem

All good things must come to an end. To say goodbye to the feria, head to the bullring after the last corrida. All of the bandas are there, ready to play the Agur Jaunak, the swansong that closes every feria in a moment of great communion and high emotion. Not a dry eye in the house...

A playlist for further listening