Basque carnival

Maskaradak – The Traditional Basque Carnivals

Zuberoa’s maskaradak (masquerades) are without a doubt an important celebration within the basque culture. Basque carnivals are spectacular rituals where social function, symbolic heritage, and the marvelous dances of basque carnivals come to life.

Each year, the youth of a Zuberoa’s town take on the responsibility of preparing and bringing the maskaradak to other localities. It’s not an easy decision, as most are small villages, and nearly all the town’s youth must take on some task to face such a challenge. Experienced dancers, sweet-voiced singers, boisterous jesters ready for mockery and revelry, provocative theatrical performers skilled in declamation, and musicians are all important part of this basque celebration.

When are the Maskaradak?

In recent years, the maskaradak normally takes place from the second weekend of January until Easter Sunday. The maskarada participants arrive in their respective villages on Sunday morning, welcomed by a symbolic barricade. After dancing and singing, they have the right to enjoy the first appetizer. Barricades, dances, songs, sips, and bites repeat from neighborhood to neighborhood throughout the morning.

The Characters of Maskaradak

Masquerade’s participants form a colorful and noisy troupe. «The Reds» (gorriak) are great dancers. «The Blacks» (beltzak) are wild, provocative, and noisy.

«The Knife Sharpeners» (txorrotxak) sing in two voices, acting as presenters and chroniclers. The kauterak (gypsy tinsmiths) and buhameak (bohemian gypsies) use their irreverent eloquence to draw smiles and offer social critique.

The five aitzindariak, skilled in Zuberoa’s refined dance technique (zamaltzaina, txerreroa, kantinersa, gathuzaina, and entseinaria), demonstrate their excellent dancing abilities. Suletino dancers perform the dantza-jauziak (jumping dances) with measured steps, caressing the ground but defying gravity in barricades, gavotas, branles, and the glass dance (godalet-dantza). When executing steps like frijat or antritxat, they lift off the ground but don’t dance looking up at the sky. 

Like in most traditional dances of Western Europe, the Suletinos dance connected to the earth. While jumping, they ascend as high as possible but also exert force on the descent. The small flute called txirula, the ttun-ttun or psaltery, the drum, and the violin mark the points where the feet touch the ground.

2024 Maskaradak Calendar

The basque region celebrates the basque carnivals throughout the first quarter of the year according the official Cultural Agenda, the encounters will take place on the following dates:

  • January 21, Sunday: Pagola
  • January 27 and 28, Saturday and Sunday: Ezpeize
  • February 3, Saturday: Maule-Lextarre
  • February 4, Sunday: Iruri
  • February 11, Sunday: Maule-Lextarre and Iruri
  • February 17, Saturday: Gamere-Zihiga
  • February 24, Saturday: Muskildi
  • March 2, Saturday: Donaixti
  • March 10, Sunday: Ligi-Atherei
  • March 17, Sunday: Idauze
  • March 23, Saturday: Aloze
  • March 31, Sunday: Barkoxe
  • April 7, Sunday: Larraine
  • April 14, Sunday: Urdiñarbe
  • April 21, Sunday: Lakarri-Altzai
  • April 27, Saturday: Pagola

Find out about other activities of this and other seasons in Basqvium

Basque carnival festival 2024

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