Galicia National Day

National Day of Galicia

National Day of Galicia (July 25th)

National day of Galicia is when the autonomous community of Galicia in Spain celebrates its national holiday on the 25th of July. It is also called the Día da Patria Galega ("Day of the Galician Fatherland"), or simply Día de Galicia ("Galicia Day"), but the official full name is the "National Day of Galicia", as established by the Galician government in 1979.

Officially the holiday has been recognized since 1979, but the tradition lasts longer. The first time the Day of Galicia was celebrated was in 1920.

The origins of the celebration can be traced all the way back to 1919, when the Assembly of the Galicianist organization Irmandades da Fala met in the Galician capital, Santiago de Compostela. It was then decided to celebrate the Galician National Day on July 25th the following year. The date was chosen as it is the day dedicated to Saint James, patron saint of both Galicia and the Galician capital city.

It was celebrated openly until the Francoist dictatorship (1939-1977), when any display of non-Spanish nationalism was forbidden. During that time the National Day would still be celebrated by the Galician emigrant communities abroad. Back at home, the Galicianists would gather with the pretext of offering a Mass for Galician poet and literary icon Rosalia de Castro. Interestingly, the regime institutionalized the religious celebration of Saint James as the "Patron Saint of Spain".

Nonetheless, from 1968 Galicianists attempted to celebrate the day in Compostela, while still under the dictatorship. The Partido Socialista de Galicia (Galician Socialist Party) and the Unión do Povo Galego (Galician People's Union) called for public political demonstrations every July 25th. These demonstrations would invariably result in riots with the Spanish police. Even during the first years of democracy, after 1977, any demonstration organised by the Asemblea Nacional-Popular Galega and the BN-PG (later transformed into the Galician Nationalist Bloc) would still be forbidden. It is only during the mid-1980s when the National Day started to gradually be celebrated with some degree of normality. However, the events from the late 1960s onwards transformed the National Day celebrations into a date with deep political implications. At present, Galician political parties (mostly nationalist) organise large demonstrations at the capital city or a number of activities to commemorate the day.

Political activities are normally all based in Santiago de Compostela, and the day is an official public holiday celebrated by the Galician government. Aside from that, a number of festivities take place from the evening of the 24th until the morning of the 26th.

The 2013 festivities were cancelled due to a fatal high-speed rail accident in Santiago the previous day.

The date of July 25th was chosen because it’s the day of Saint James (Santiago). In Spain the holy days are still very popular, and the days are also so-called ‘name days’, on which people celebrate everybody who is named after the saint of that day.

Irmandades da Fala

The Irmandades da Fala (English: Brotherhood of the Language) was a Galician nationalist organization active between 1916 and 1936. It was the first political organization of Galicia that only used the Galician language.

Aurelio Ribalta, a Galician writer living in Madrid, called for the protection of the Galician language in 1915. On January 5th, 1916, Antón Vilar Ponte started a campaign for the establishment of a League of Friends of the Galician Language in the newspaper La Voz de Galicia, and in March 1916 he published Galician Nationalism: our Regional Affirmation, where he supported the protection, dignification and use of the Galician language.

The proposal was supported by leaders of different ideological persuasions. The most important of these were Antón Losada Diéguez and the Traditionalists and the Liberal Democrats.

In the congress of November 1918 in the city of Lugo, they established their program. They had as primary objectives the complete autonomy for Galicia, municipalities autonomy, entry of Galicia into the League of Nations and established a federal union with Portugal.

Related to Galicia objectives, they wanted the legislative power to be in the Galician Parliament, elected by the people. They also wanted the judicial power to always be exercised by the Galician people and have its own tributary laws, without the intervention of the central government. Another request was made for both languages (Galician and Spanish) to be the official languages in Galicia. Also, equal rights for women and men and suppression of the Provincial Deputations were requested.

St. James (Santiago)

The Apostle Saint James the Elder is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. Brother of John, the Evangelist, he is the son of Zebedee and Mary Salome. Along with Peter and John he belongs to the group of three privileged disciples who were admitted by Jesus into the important moments of his life, such as his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and during his Transfiguration. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Saint James was the first Apostle to become a martyr by being beheaded by Herod Agrippa in the year 43 in Jerusalem. The tradition narrates how his body was taken by sea to Galicia, and was buried in a forest, today the site of the Cathedral.

Galicia National Day


In the Catholic tradition, Saint James is the patron saint of Spain and, according to legend, his remains are held in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The name Santiago is the local evolution of Latin Genitive Sancti Lacobi, "the (church or sanctuary) of Saint James". Over time, this evolved into a personal name in Spanish, and also in Portuguese -Tiago-, with its derivatives Diego/Diogo). The traditional pilgrimage to the grave of the saint, known as the "Way of St. James", has been the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from the Early Middle Ages onwards, although its modern revival and popularity stems from Walter Starkie's 1957 book, The Road to Santiago. 

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Xacobeo Year

The feast day of St. James is celebrated on July 25th on the liturgical calendars of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and certain Protestant churches. He is commemorated on April 30th in the Orthodox Christian liturgical calendar (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, April 30th currently falls on May 13th of the modern Gregorian Calendar). The national day of Galicia is also celebrated on July 25th, as St. James is the region’s patron saint. When July 25th takes place on a Sunday, it’s called an anniversary year, or Año Xacobeo. This happens in a cycle of 5, 6 and 11 years. And in those years the party is celebrated even bigger in Santiago de Compostela.

In the Xacobeo years it’s also more crowded in the city. Every year many pilgrims make their pilgrimage to Santiago, but in the Xacobeo years they multiply.

Galicia National Day

The Xacobeo is a special year, a holy year. In those years the Puerta Santa (holy door) of the Cathedral opens for pilgrims. At the end of the year the door closes again and will not reopen until a new Xacobeo.

The last Xacobeo was some years ago. We are now nearing the end of the long 11-year interval. The last one was in 2010 and the next will be in 2021.