Near Death Festival – Galicia in Northwestern Spain

Tucked away in the lush, green province of Galicia in Northwestern Spain is the small town of Las Nieves (also known as As Neves), which is known for hosting a rather unusual event – the “Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme,” better known as the “Near Death Festival.” This unique celebration is a profound manifestation of human resilience and the joy of life after facing the threshold of death.

History and Significance

The Near Death Festival takes place annually on July 29th, honoring Saint Martha, the Patron Saint of resurrection. The festival is steeped in the Catholic belief of divine intervention saving people from near-death experiences. Those who’ve had a brush with death in the past year express their gratitude for a second chance at life during this event.

The Festival

The participants of the festival are those who have had a near-death experience within the past year, whether through illness, accident, or any other life-threatening circumstance. Accompanied by relatives and friends, they parade in open coffins through the town, with their loved ones taking on the roles of pallbearers.

The procession makes its way to the small hilltop church of Santa Marta. There, the formerly near-deceased attend a special Mass to offer their thanks for their continued life. As part of the ritual, the participants may also make a donation to the church.

While it may sound somber, the event has a festive atmosphere, with music, food, and fireworks. After the mass, the town erupts into a vibrant fiesta, with local bands performing and stalls serving traditional Galician food and drink.

How to Get There Internationally

The easiest way to reach Las Nieves is from the city of Vigo, the nearest international gateway.

By Air: The nearest airport is Vigo Airport (VGO), served by several airlines with connections to other major cities in Europe. From outside Europe, you’ll likely need to book a connecting flight via Madrid or Barcelona.

By Train: From Vigo, you can take a train to Porriño, then a taxi to Las Nieves. The whole journey takes around an hour.

By Bus: Buses run from Vigo to As Neves, though the service isn’t very frequent, so it’s essential to check the schedule.

By Car: Las Nieves is about a 40-minute drive from Vigo. Car hire is readily available at Vigo airport.

The Near Death Festival is a compelling example of how cultures around the world grapple with the existential concept of death. Despite its unusual premise, the festival carries an atmosphere of celebration and thanksgiving. It’s a fascinating event that encapsulates a blend of tradition, religion, and the shared human experience of life, death, and the relief of narrowly escaping the latter.