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Santo Tomas Pig Raffle

Posted December 21, 2007

This is an account written by our friend Jamie Jones, who is the head of our Spanish office in the Basque Country. He lives in Zarautz, right down the road from San Sebastian.


"Each year on December 21st the city of San Sebastian comes alive with the Feast of Santo Tomas. The day of St. Thomas is one of the major festivals of the calendar in San Sebastian. Despite the name, has no connection with religion. That is the same date as the feast day of StThomas is a coincidence. 

While there is no clear agreement on the origins of the holiday, it seems that December 21, the first day of winter, was the day when the land owners, most of whom lived in the capital city would collect their annual rents from tenants. 

For that reason, tenant farmers would come to the city, not only to pay their rents but to sell the best products they could bring: all kinds of poultry, vegetables and the best craft objects to exchange or sell in the city. 

Over time, the custom evolved to become a tradition. And today is a fairground in which many agricultural goods are on display - sort of like a County Fair. It is also a tradition to raffle a large live pig, which is displayed throughout the day.

The feast of St. Thomas goes back to the mid-nineteenth century, when most of the tenant farmers, who cultivated the land they did not own, would travel to the capital to pay the rents of these lands.

Over time, the custom became a tradition. Even today there is a fairground where on this day there is an abundance of agricultural products. The highlight is the traditional raffle of a large live pig, which is displayed throughout the day.

In addition to the fair itself, there is the tradition of chistorra. Countless bars in this old part of the city offer free chistorra to all their patrons who visit. The Old City is filled with the aromas of good food.

Chistorra is a type of fresh sausage, thin and unseasoned. It developed originally with the remains from the slaughter of the pigs which typically happens this time of year. 

Along with Chistorra, Talos (corn tortillas) are eaten. Talos are a kind of tortilla made for corn flour and water, without yeast, cooked on a grill. Talos and chistorra proliferate in the Old Part of San Sebastian.