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The October 12 Celebrations and Military Parade
October 12 is a national holiday in Spain and many visitors may not understand what is being celebrated. There is a short article in the newspaper Que which explains it.
On Oct. 12, 1918, the government decided to celebrate the day that Columbus discovered America. The day was called “Fiesta de la Raza” (Feast of the Race).
Franco then changed the name in 1940 to “Dia de la Raza” (Day of the Race).
In 1958 the name was changed again to “Fiesta de la Hispanidad” (Feast of the Hispanic Culture). It is popularly called “Dia de la Fiesta Nacional de España” (Day of the National Feast of Spain). It is supposed to commemorate the history of the Spanish.
It turns out that Oct. 12 is also the religious Feast Day of the Virgin of Pilar, and also the Festival of the Guardia Civil. It is also the Feast Day of the Police and the Armed Forces Day (thus the big parade in Madrid). So actually many different things are celebrated on this day.
The October 12 Military Parade in Madrid
October 12 is Armed Forces Day. There is a big military parade on the Castellana boulevard, with the grandstand at the Plaza de Colon with the Royal Family reviewing the troops.
The military parade is one of the most colorful pageants that one will ever see in his lifetime. Tourists should see this in person. If not in person, one can see it on TV if one is in Spain. It starts in the morning and you should go early to get a good viewing position. It starts about 10 am.
The most exciting is to see the contingent from the Spanish Foreign Legion in their dark green uniforms. The men are at their fighting form and they have a very exciting fast march. They bring their mascot along, which is usually a ram or a goat, dressed for the parade.
There are all types of uniforms. The troops at Melilla have long capes and wear a red fez on their heads. Their pace is slow and measured.
One will see horsemen with colorful uniforms from Napoleonic times. The Spanish have a very long military history and one will see costumes from their past. This is one of the most colorful pageants in Spain.