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Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James' Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25. Saint James was one of Jesus' first disciples. Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Is Feast of Saint James the Apostle a Public Holiday?

Feast of Saint James the Apostle is a public holiday in Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is situated in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. The cathedral is the reputed burial-place of Saint James the Great, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ.

©iStockphoto.com/Javier García Blanco

What Do People Do?

Many events are organized on and before Saint James' Day in the Basque Country and Galicia. These include:

  • Special church services to honor the life and work of Saint James.
  • Exhibitions of art work by artists born or living in or near Santiago de Compostela.
  • Theatre productions and street shows.
  • Concerts of modern and traditional music, including bagpipe performances.
  • Traditional dance events held outside.

Special services are held in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela on July 25. Church officials swing a large incense burner at full speed during this service. They fill the whole church with incense smoke.

Public Life

Saint James' Day is a public holiday in the autonomous communities of the Basque Country and Galicia on July 25. Public life is generally quiet. Many businesses and other organizations are closed. Many stores are closed but some bakers and food stores may be open. Public transport services generally run to a reduced schedule, although there may be no services in rural areas. Large events may cause some local disruption to traffic, particularly in Santiago de Compostela.

Regional or local authorities may move the public holiday to a different date, particularly if July 25 falls on a Sunday. If July 25 falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, many businesses and organizations are also closed on Monday, July 24, or Friday, July 26. In the rest of Spain, July 25 is not a public holiday.

Background

St James, son of Zebedee, was an apostles and a brother of John the Apostle, according to Christian belief. He lived at the same time as Jesus. He may have traveled to the area that is now Santiago de Compostela.

St James was beheaded in Judea in the year 44 CE. Some Christians believe that his disciples carried his body by sea to Padrón on the Galician coast. They then buried his body under what is now the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

St James' relics were discovered sometime between 791 CE and 842 CE. Santiago de Compostela then became a place of pilgrimage. Pope Leo XIII asserted that the relics of St James at Compostela were authentic in a papal bull. This papal bull was published on November 1, 1884.

Symbols

Common symbols of St James include a traveler's hat and a scallop shell. The scallop shell is used to mark a network of pilgrimage routes. These routes lead to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela from many European countries, including:

  • Austria.
  • Belgium.
  • England.
  • France.
  • Germany.
  • Italy.
  • Luxembourg.
  • the Netherlands.
  • Portugal.
  • Switzerland.

Thousands of people walk, cycle or ride a horse along the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela each year. Many people hope to arrive just before Saint James' Day.

Feast of Saint James the Apostle Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2015SatJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayCL, CN, GA, LO, M, NA, PV
2016MonJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayCL, CN, GA, LO, M, NA, PV
2017TueJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayCL, CN, GA, M, NA, PV
2018WedJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGalicia
2019ThuJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGA, PV, S
2020SatJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGA, PV, S
2021SunJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGA, PV, S
2022MonJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGA, PV, S
2023TueJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGA, PV, S
2024ThuJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGA, PV, S
2025FriJul 25Feast of Saint James the ApostleCommon local holidayGA, PV, S

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