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9 October 1238: A special day of celebration in Valencia region

The flag is passed over the City Hall balcony in an image from 2018.
The flag is passed over the City Hall balcony in an image from 2018. / SUR
  • On 9 October, Valencia celebrates its freedom from 500 years of Moorish rule and the region also enjoys the equivalent of Valentine's Day

The Valencia region is not as well-known abroad as its neighbour Catalonia and many people are surprised to learn that it is an autonomous region in its own right, but it has an interesting history and part of that has led to 9 October - 'Nou d'Octubre' - being celebrated as its 'national day' each year.

The celebrations are held to commemorate 9 October 1238, when King James I entered the city of Valencia, a week after liberating it from 500 years of Moorish rule. Surprisingly, the king didn't just annex the kingdom of Valencia to his own territories, but established it as an autonomous region, with its own governing bodies and courts. This was the birth of the Valencian Community as we know it today, and it is a source of great pride for the people of the region.

One of the traditions associated with this day is the ceremonial lowering of the region's Senyera flag outside Valencia City Hall, and instead of being carried out through the main entrance it is passed down over the main balcony and taken in procession to the Parterre, where a floral tribute is laid before the statue of King James. Then, after the Valencian anthem has been sung, it is transferred to the History Museum. The flag has red and yellow horizontal stripes with a blue patterned strip down one side.

Of course, a Spanish festival wouldn't be the same without a party, and celebrations take place all over the region, including fireworks and Moors and Christians parades, although the most spectacular events are to be found in the city. This year, with the pandemic, of course, Valencia's National Day will be a much quieter affair than usual.

However, 9 October also happens to be the day of St Dionysius, which in Valencia is the equivalent of Valentine's Day, and local confectioners bake little marzipan figures so men can present their wives and girlfriends with a 'Mocadorà', a bundle of these sweet treats, as an expression of their love.