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Games organised for children at certain popular festivities have not always been as important as they are today. As they are dates celebrated by adults, no room was allocated for the youngest members of the family in the past. However, that can be justified as the activities organised by and for adults were not as abundant and complex as the current ones.

One example is that the young people of Gamboa (A) would entertain themselves on the day of the festivity by running from one side to the another to the sound of the music, and among the almond trees and the odd joker. As it was a special occasion, they were given a few coins to spend on sweets, balloons and other knick-knacks. The organised acts, which were limited to the religious services, the bowls or card championships and dancing, did not take children into account. The young ones who came from the local farmsteads had to return to their respective homes when vespers were rung, around eight in the evening; but the ones from the village were allowed to stay for slightly longer. Festivities are currently celebrated in Ullíbarri-Gamboa and in Landa and children’s games play an important part on the programme. The first of those towns usually also hire professional clowns from Vitoria to the delight of the youngest members of the family.

Traditionally in the popular festivities of Artziniega (A), children’s games were not important, in other words, the festivities were not organised with children in mind. Currently, one day of the festive programme is allocated to them and is therefore known as “Children’s Day”.

That is also the case in Allo, Artajona, Monreal and Obanos (N), town were children’s participation in popular festivities was rather low until quite recently. Festivities were frequently limited to religious celebrations and the few activities organised were aimed at entertaining youths and adults, with the elderly and children overlooked. Nowadays, children actively taken part in the festivities and numerous games are organised for them to the point that there is always a “Children’s Day”.

During that day, different contests and competitions with prizes as encouragement are organised on that day. There are also collective tea parties and hot chocolate, etc. In short, a whole range of activities designed for the children’s enjoyment and entertainment.

These considerations about the towns of Alava and Navarra where children are now playing a greater role in the local festivities can be extended in general to the whole of the country, where there are no local festivities where children do not have their own entertainment and even a special day for them.

In Carranza (B), up until around the start of the 1970s when rural students began to go to school in the Valley’s main town, there were several district schools. There were sufficiently far away from each other for the children at the different school to never be in contact. For some time, a meeting was organised every year to bring together the children from the different schools to compete and play on one day. Those meetings were known as Shows and the children, who took their lunch with them, would go there first on foot and later by bus. Even after the change in catchment areas, this custom has continued and students now meet in the square next to the chapel built in honour of the Patron Saint of the Valley, to enjoy a day of entertainment and fun.

Most common games

Musical chairs Aulki-kentzea

This game is called “Aulki-kentzea” in Zerain (G) and “Aulkixetara” in Elosua (G).

Chairs are arranged in a circle with the seats looking outwards. There is one less chair than the number of players. When the music starts to play, the children go around the chairs. When the music stops suddenly, each player has to try and sit down. One inevitably is left standing and is eliminated. Two children often end up sitting on the same seat. The one who sat down second is then eliminated. If it cannot be established who sat down first, the child occupying the smallest part of the seat is eliminated.

Sack races. Zaku-karrerak

Each child gets into their sack and holds it up with their hands at their waist. All the participants then stand on the start line and when the signal is given, they begin to race while trying to keep their balance, and so they jump along. Even so, children frequently fall over, which amuses the people watching. Any child that falls over is not eliminated, but can stand up and continue playing. The first to reach the finish line wins.

Games where the mouth is used instead of hands

Using your mouth to pick up coins from a container filled with water. Uretan gauzak harrapatzea

The game consists of filling a container with water and throwing some coins of different values in the bottom. A bucket or pail, a washbasin, a bowl or a bathtub is usually used. The children take it in turn to put their head in the water and try to pick up all the money they can with their mouths and teeth. The time that they spend with their head underwater depends on how long they can manage to do so. The children are sometimes told the number of attempts allowed or a certain time is set.


Bicycle races. Zinta-karrerak

Cycle competitions are very typical in festive celebrations. Rather than finding out who is the faster, the idea is to test the skills of the competitors as they have to collect a series of ribbons while keeping their balance.

Each participant, on their bicycle and without stopping, must pull a ribbon hanging from a rope and then put a metal or wooden rod in a ring at its end.

La cucaña (slippery pole)

The cucaña is another typical game of certain festivities, at least at some of the places surveyed. It basically consists of trying to climb up a pole that is several metres high and whose surface is covered with a substance that makes it slippery. The person who reaches the top is given a prize.;;This is more typical of young adults and adolescents than of children.