The time of the Carnivals is approaching, celebrated in many places on the planet, with ancient origins, and which in our town are a sign of identity, due to the unique symbiosis that occurs between the people of Cebrera and this festival, whose preparation and celebration occupy a good part of their lives. Let’s see some information about the Carnavales de Cebreros and other places. To see the 2008 Carnival program pinche here.
In Cebreros there has always been a great tradition in the celebration of these festivals, being the most cheerful, well-known and crowded in the province.
As it is said, King Alfonso XIII himself, coming from El Escorial, came to Robledo de Chavela to see these Carnivals incognito, he mixed with the rest of the people until he was discovered, being acclaimed by those present.
Taking a small historical tour, it seems that its origin comes from the Roman Saturnalia. In these festivals the prevailing social order was left aside and the slaves participated in the banquet together with their masters, whom they insulted and criticized; On the day of the Sis festival, in March, they made a procession of naval floats (“currus navalís”). These pagan customs drifted towards the introduction of Lent, in the first centuries of the Christian era..
The term “canaval” finds its etymological roots in the combination of the Latin words caro (meat) and levara (to remove, strip), which in vulgar Latin would become “carne vale”.
It is known that the Arabs were enthusiastic about the carnival and that at the end of the Reconquest these festivals were very widespread among the Saracens.
En the Middle Ages were called “meats tolliendas” or “carnestolendas”. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the carnival preserves elements of the Roman Saturnalia; then they were a necessary escape valve to maintain the stability of a medieval community in which the most extreme forms of religiosity coexisted with the secular elements of popular culture (“Today let’s eat, drink, sing and relax, we’ll fast tomorrow”).
Towards the end of the Middle Ages, it was sought to limit its licentious or violent aspects and to enhance its artistic possibilities.
As a consequence of romanticism, the carnivals were embellished with carriages, parades and improvement of the costumes of the participants. These changes reduced the components of violence from earlier times. The physical confrontations were replaced by floral games, paper streamers and other modalities that would be typical in the street carnivals of the s. XIX.
Throughout history, these parties have had several prohibitions but they have always resurfaced with force. The Diario de Ávila, from February 1 to 12, 1918, launched authentic diatribes against the celebration of these festivals; He even suggested the creation of a “Carnival Tax” to anyone who went out in disguise on the street. Despite these prohibitions, the social vitality of the carnivals was maintained in Cebreros. At the beginning of the century they celebrated it with less means, but nobody lacked a few rags to wear, although always with their faces covered. Back then, masked balls were held and people continually joked “you don’t know me.” In the morning there was dancing in Pirulina, with many jostling and avalanches of people; because of this few women dared to go. Throughout the day two bands competed, that of Tío Balta and that of D. Eugenio, the sacristan, who also moved to other towns. Even then, people were grouped into groups taking the typical mantecados and the glasses of wine, enjoying deserved fame those of Corridor Angolotti and those of Altozano.
With the beginning of the civil war there was a gap in these celebrations. After the end of the war, carnivals were once again prohibited due to disturbance of public order, although in Cebreros they did not stop being held. However, in 1960, from the Plaza del Altozano, an “outbreak of popular revolution” began due to the dispatch of a government delegate who wanted to impose its prohibition; then the neighbors dressed in mourning and took to the streets, authorizing them again. But since 1961 they had to call them Winter Festivals, with the governor of Ávila, Vaca de Osma, attending to give them the go-ahead. Since then they have been maintained with dances, competitions and parades of costumes and floats (the float of “La Picota” won that first prize) and popular children’s tests.
They are celebrated 40 days before Easter, from the Saturday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
The town welcomes many visitors who, with any “fix” or “glimpse”, happily join the hustle and bustle of this festival.
The components of the floats spend much of the year composing and preparing their parades for Carnival Sunday.
The beginning of these takes place on Saturday afternoon, with parades and brass bands, followed by the reading of the proclamation by some famous personage invited to that effect (among others, in 1988 we had the then president of our community Mr. José María Aznar, in 1989 to Mr. Carlos Sánchez Reyes president of the Cortes of Castilla y León, in 1991 to our countryman and artist Francisco Montosa “Monty”, in 1993 to Isabel Pritz, presenter of Telemadrid, in 1995 to the magician “More” Award National of Comic Magic 1993); then the traditional fireworks will begin, followed by dances enlivened by orchestras.
On Sunday morning, a music band goes through several streets of the town playing targets and parades; then, from the Civil Guard Barracks, the parade of comparsas, decorated floats, costumes and masks of original designs begins. These vary each year and tend to coincide with current affairs, with many eye-catching costumes mixed with grotesque masks and other more or less outlandish clothing.
Groups of countrymen make up «Las Copleras». Richly attired, they sing songs through the streets; Some are typical of Cebreros, others are mischievous and others refer to more or less recent events.
In the afternoon, people are approaching the square where the typical Cebrereña Jota of the “Corro o Rondón” begins to sound, a jota of the Carnivals that is danced around the Plaza de España and adjacent streets, the men inside and the women outside, always in pairs. In this dance, in addition to different carnival costumes, the typical regional costumes of the area are displayed – some of them are authentic works of art rescued from the grandmother’s chest, once an important part of the marital daughters.
All visitors are presented with local wine, served from the pyramid of barrels placed in the Plaza.
In the houses and bakeries the “huesillos, sequillos, buns, mantecados, muffins, flowers, twisted, donuts, donuts or donuts” are fried, typical sweets with which they are given to friends and visitors during the festivities.
Mondays and Tuesdays are usually dedicated to the townspeople and children, with attractions for them and competitions of sack races, ribbons, piñatas and other popular tests, in addition to the undeniable dance of the Corro in the afternoons.
In an attempt to prolong the carnivals, the Burial of the Sardine has been celebrated on Wednesday since 1980, with the gravediggers, brothers, mourners and the corresponding reading of ejaculations parading; The funeral procession ends in the Plaza de España with a tasting of several kilos of sardines accompanied by lemonade.
Finally, Piñata Sunday is celebrated, introduced at the beginning of the century by the then mayor Ramón Hernández Vidal, it was abandoned because of the war and was rescued in the 70s. On this last day of carnival the floats parade again , comparsas and to dance the Corro, ending these traditional festivals and entering the period of recollection of Lent.
Until well into the 60s, in the square, in front of the then Banco de Santander and on four wooden beams nailed in the former dirt floor, a stage was mounted on which the music band was placed, led by D. Eugenio , the sacristan.
The “fools” were also typical, people with simple masks and crude suits, who ran around making ringing bells tied around their waists; you can still see some during these holidays.
Until the 1960s, the log-cutting contest (cutting in the transverse direction 2 logs of about 40 cm in diameter, adding the times of the team members) and, less frequently, cycling races were also typical.
In 1988 a group of people from Cádiz came to visit to find out about our carnivals; shortly after, a representation from Cebrera would attend the Cádiz Carnival Congress.
It is also worth remembering, in 1989 and 1990, the group of Cebrereños who participated in the carnival float parades in Madrid, with the floats “Tranvía de los años 20” and “Bodega de Cebreros”, respectively, who won some awards , being highly applauded by the public.
* Text collected from “Cebreros, something more than good wine”, by Don José Manuel Espinosa Pérez.