Looking out of the window in the city of Zaragoza on Sunday the 12th October was a bizarre experience. On the streets there was not a single car or vehicle which resembled modern times, but instead, passers by and groups of people walked along and gathered in the otherwise empty streets wearing incredible period costume. Decked out in heavy silken dresses, embroidered cloaks, wooden clogs, extravagantly frayed shawls and floral headdresses, the inhabitants of Zaragoza looked either like they had gone back in time, or were appearing as extras in a Hollywood blockbuster. But before I could conclude that I had somehow awoken in a dream, scenes from local television flashing up on the television screen at the end of my bed betrayed the truth: that this was no Hollywood blockbuster, but an event surely worthy of the live film reel remitting images of the event onto TV screens all over Spain. Showing extraordinary images of the streets of Zaragoza packed to the rafters with locals wearing traditional costume and carrying bouquets of flowers, the cameras had captured the very centre point of the Fiestas del Pilar – the Offering of the Flowers.
Floral dedications being carried by traditionally dressed locals towards the Plaza del Pilar
La Ofrenda des Flores (the offering of flowers) is a great demonstration of the people’s devotion to the patron saint of the city, the Virgen del Pillar, during which hundreds of thousands of people, dressed in the traditional costume of Aragon or of any other region in Spain, bring flowers to the Virgin, a statue of whom is placed in the centre of the Plaza del Pilar. Around the statue stood on high, an army of volunteers slot the flowers offered into a vast pyramidal structure, tiling a huge sloping flower mantle around the Virgin, which remains in the square for the rest of the festival so that all the people in the city can see it. From an early beginning, when the first bouquets filled the area of the mantel immediately below the glinting gilded statue, we were lucky enough to see this vast floral cape as it gradually filled with floral tributes, while thousands more offers flooded into the square, brought by locals queuing patiently in their lavish local costumes and entertained by a wide variety of superb traditional dancing and music shows.
Handing over the flowers and the vast floral mantel built around the Virgen del Pilar
It was an incredible event to watch and be part of, from regarding the vast human river of flower-carrying locals slowly winding its passage all the way down from the main thoroughfares North of the city to the vast Plaza del Pilar, to seeing the great floral mantel slowly develop flower by flower. The air was filled with human spirit, with shared happiness and with a tangible expression of positivity and celebration, and was certainly an unmissable event in all of my adventures in Spain.
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