Tour guide @ San Sebastián Urban Adventures. Just another Basque hoping to explore the world. Passionate gamer, repressed prose writer, and language nerd.
Once the crazy Carnival celebrations have ended, locals in San Sebastián like to take it easy and go back to their regular daily habits: feasting on delicious food, wandering through markets, and getting social with friends — especially because this is when cider season begins. March is a great time to visit all the cider houses, but there are also some other ways to warm your insides as we say goodbye to the chilly winter months.
Even though some 58% of the Basque population is ‘officially’ Catholic, the most prevalent beliefs in the Basque Country today tend to be atheism and agnosticism. Our pagan heritage might be responsible for this skepticism, or maybe it’s just how our worldview is evolving, but truth is, the Basque Country is one of the least religious regions in Spain, with only about 4% of the area’s youth openly declaring themselves to be religious. Yet even still, Catholicism is the predominant religion in our region, which means at this time of year, Easter is a big event. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Catholics initiate a period of purgation through mass, prayers, and penance before Easter Sunday arrives. This is a religious season we call Cuaresma (Lent) and it begins on March 1. Priests paint committed Catholics’ foreheads with ash to represent the destruction of their sins and mistakes.
March in San Sebastián is all about races and marathons. The Lilaton 10-kilometre race is especially popular and aligns with Women’s Day (March 8), celebrating feminist values.
This race targets female runners — beginners or pros — to join in this event honouring women in athletics. The organiser’s goal is to encourage the presence of women in all sports fields, as there’s a large percentage of sportswomen enrolled in the local athletics federation and representing the Basque Country, as well.
This year, Lilaton will be take place on March 5, a few days prior to International Women’s Day. Thousands of participants are expected to run in the race (6,000 participants to be precise) and the numbers keep growing year by year. This will be the 28th edition of the event.
What we call Korrika (literally translated as “running”) is a race celebrated twice a year to promote Basque identity and language. This race, organised by AEK (a well-known Basque-teaching organisation), is wildly popular among locals.
Every year, locals of all ages participate in Korrika as a symbol of their minority language, Euskera. Throughout the history of the Basque Country, there have been several moments when Euskera was close to being lost. The most recent period was the dictatorship of Franco, which began with the Spanish Civil War, a period of fear, censorship, and fascism that lasted decades, from the 1930s to the 1970s. During that time, speaking Basque in public was completely forbidden and was punished with jail time. But even after such a long period of oppression, Basques managed to restore and somehow save the language.
Today, the Basque Country has become a fully functioning bilingual region (Basque and Spanish are equally used in the local government, media, press, religion, politics, and so on) but there’s no doubt there’s still a lot of work to do to recruit new Basque speakers. According to linguists, Euskera is probably the oldest living language in Europe, an isolated pre-Indo-European language that precedes even Latin. But where does it come from? We know very little about that. However, we are fully aware that losing it would mean losing a huge part of our culture, and that’s why projects like Korrika are highly appreciated.
Korrika covers more than 2,500 kilometres, and isn’t just celebrated across the autonomous region but rather the entire Euskal Herria — as such, Navarre and the French Basque Country are also included in this big day. All towns and cities get to collaborate in this uninterrupted race.
The first edition dates back to 1980 when tens of participants ran from Oñati to Bilbao. Every year, Korrika manages to gather thousands of locals with the same purpose, and the participation is always massive. With every kilometre run, money is collected for AEK schools. The goal is to hand a baton containing a message that won’t be revealed until it reaches the finishing line. If you happen to be in the big cities or in any other corner of our land, you may want to run for the Basque language, too!
For further information, you can visit Korrika’s official website. The event begins in Otxandio (Biscay) on March 30 at 5pm, and finishes the 9th of April in Pamplona (Navarre).
Discover the oh-so-local way of life in Basque country on a San Sebastian tour, with a local guide. With our tours you can take to the hills and discover the gorgeous coastline of the St. James Way, or get to know Basque food by tucking into some delicious pintxos. When it comes to San Sebastian travel, we’ve got you covered!