Día de Canarias: traditional dances, music and dishes

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On the 30th of May we celebrate the Day of the Canary Islands, but… what does this mean? Well, it means that it’s a public holiday (there are no classes and many workers have the day off) and in some parts of the Islands there are celebrations in which traditional music and food are the main event.

Have you seen our latest post on Canarian vocabulary and expressions? In case you haven’t, just click on the link below and keep learning with us.

Why May the 30th?

May 30th was chosen because it marks two very important historical moments in the history of the Canary Islands:

  • May 30th 1983. After almost 40 years of dictatorship, the Parliament of the Canary Islands met for the first time a year after achieving its statute of autonomy.
  • May 30th 1481. During the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands (1402-1496) one of the aboriginal leaders of Gran Canaria and the Spaniards signed an agreement (Pacto or Carta de Calatayud) in an attempt to end the conflict and make a “peaceful” transition.

Traditional Canarian dishes

The best place to savour the traditional dishes of the Canary Islands is a guachinche, if you are on the island of Tenerife, or a traditional restaurant, away from the tourist areas, if you are on any of the islands. Although the traditional food is very tasty and diverse, we have made a small selection of some of the most representative dishes to create our own guachinche menu. Enjoy and don’t hesitate to try them! 


Traditional Canarian clothing

Traditional Canarian clothing can be called by different names: ropa típica, traje tradicional or ropa de mago(a). Mago(a) in Spanish means two very different things: a person who practices magic or, in the Canary Islands, a person who works in the fields. The second meaning is the one used in the Canary Islands to talk about these clothes worn by peasants and local people several centuries ago. If you want to take part in any of these traditional festivities, you’ll need ropa de mago(a) (traditional Canarian clothing) and not the Hogwarts uniform. It’s very important for the local people to wear the right clothes and put them on in the right way.

In this video a Canarian comedian shows you how to respect the traditions.

When do we wear traditional clothing in the Canary Islands? Most people in the Canary Islands have one or more traditional outfits, although there are also companies that rent them out during traditional festivals. Almost every town and village on the Islands has its own typical male and female costumes, so the options are very varied. People wear these clothes to participate in the romerías and bailes de magos that are held every year on the different islands. Here you have the calendar of traditional celebrations in Tenerife for the year 2024 and the calendar of festivities in Gran Canaria.


The romerías are celebrations with a religious origin that are held in honour of a saint or a virgin that is paraded in procession, but, in the case of most of the romerías in the Canary Islands, the people who take part in these celebrations wear traditional clothing. During the romería, the saint or virgin is accompanied by different folk groups and dancers. It’s also common to include carrozas, large wooden carts pulled by cows, on which people dressed in traditional costumes ride, sharing food and drink with anyone who asks. The most typical thing is to carry wine, papas arrugadas (Canarian potatoes), hard-boiled eggs, small sandwiches, carne de fiesta and some cakes. The curious thing is that the people who come out onto the streets to watch the romería pass by and not to actively participate in it, also receive food and drink. The food is thrown from the carrozas, but for the drink you have to go to one of the groups that participate in the celebration. If you want to see one of these romerías, you’ll need good reflexes to catch the eggs and sandwiches that will come flying at you.

Bailes de magos

Although the bailes de magos are also celebrated in honour of a religious image, in this case, it is not present in the festival. It is a verbena (an outdoor party with live music to dance to) in a town square where people dance to Latin music, pasodobles and some traditional songs, but everyone wears traditional Canarian clothes.

There are so many different traditional music sub-genres that it will take us to long to deal with in just one post. However, we’ve picked one song for each island, excluding La Graciosa.


Tenerife: Isa de Tenerife

La Palma: Danza del trigo

La Gomera: Tajaraste gomero

El Hierro: El baile del vivo

Gran Canaria: Sorondongo

Fuerteventura: Polca majorera

Lanzarote: La zaranda

El silbo gomero

To wrap up this brief introductory guide to the culture of the Canary Islands, we cannot forget one of the most interesting and unique elements, our own language: the silbo gomero. It is a form of whistled communication that originated in pre-Hispanic times and which, with the disappearance of the aboriginal languages, was “translated” into Spanish and has been preserved to this day. It has been Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2009. With only 2 sounds to represent the vowels and 4 for the consonants, it can express thousands of words.

Down below you can see a short film where they show the advantage of being able to communicate with this language in the 21st century.

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Our very own podcast about Canarian culture and history

If you want to continue learning about our culture, don’t miss the Let’s Speak Spanish podcast, where Juanjo will teach you some of the secrets of the history of the Canary Islands.

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