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The Day of Our Lady of Africa in Spain

The Day of Our Lady of Africa (Día de Nuestra Señora de África or Fiestas Patronales) is a time of celebration for Christians in the Spanish city of Ceuta, Spain. It is also a local public holiday in Ceuta on August 5.

Is The Day of Our Lady of Africa a Public Holiday?

The Day of Our Lady of Africa is a public holiday in Ceuta, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Flowers are often placed in front of the statue of Our Lady of Africa.

©iStockphoto.com/Angel Herrero de Frutos

What Do People Do?

The annual fair in Ceuta begins at the end of July and lasts until August 5. Many people visit the fair, especially on August 4 and 5. Many Christians go to the Plaza de África in Ceuta on August 4. They lay flowers in front of the statue of the Our Lady of Africa or outside the church that houses this statue.

On August 5, a group of men known as costaleros carry the statue in a procession through the streets of Ceuta. During the procession, people throw flowers from balconies onto the statue. Fireworks are set off to mark the end of the fair and holiday.

Public Life

The Day of Our Lady of Africa is a public holiday in Ceuta on August 5, but not in the rest of Spain. Many businesses and other organizations are closed in Ceuta. Many stores are closed but some bakers and food stores may be open. Public transport services may run to a reduced schedule. Parades and the annual Ceuta fair may cause disruption to traffic, especially in the city center.

Background

The Strait of Gibraltar is the narrow sea passage between Spain and Morocco. It marks the point where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean. This strait has played an important role in travel networks and the spread of religions for many thousands of years.

Tariq ibn Ziyad conquered the rock of Gibraltar in 711 CE. This marked the start of Moorish rule on the Iberian peninsula. Tariq ibn Ziyad built a mosque on the southernmost point of Gibraltar. Ferdinand IV of Castile captured Gibraltar in 1309 CE. He put a statue of Mary, Mother of Christ, in the mosque and dedicated it to Our Lady of Europe. It is now known as "Our Lady of Europe as Patroness of Gibraltar".

King John I of Portugal and his troops attacked Ceuta on August 14, 1415. He arranged that a Catholic shrine was built in the city. The shrine was dedicated to Our Lady of Africa. The shrines to Our Lady of Europe and Our Lady of Africa flank the eastern entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. Together, they were important symbols for Christian mariners leaving the sheltered waters of the Mediterranean and entering the rougher seas of the Atlantic Ocean.

Symbols

A statue of Mary and Jesus known as "Our Lady of Africa" plays an important role in the celebrations. The statue was brought to Ceuta from Lisbon, Portugal, by Henry the Navigator of Portugal. He did this shortly after his father, King John I of Portugal, conquered Ceuta in 1415.

The Day of Our Lady of Africa Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2015Mi5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2016Fr5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2017Sa5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2018So5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2018Mo6. AugThe Day of Our Lady of Africa observedLocal holidayCeuta
2019Mo5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2020Mi5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2021Do5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2022Fr5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2023Sa5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2024Mo5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta
2025Di5. AugThe Day of Our Lady of AfricaLocal holidayCeuta

We diligently research and continuously update our holiday dates and information. If you find a mistake, please let us know.

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