MONDAY, JULY 25: Practice your Spanish today—it’s the feast day of the Patron Saint of Spain, St. James the Greater. Ancient tradition holds that in 40 AD, the Virgin Mary came to James while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia; it’s believed she appeared on the Nuestra Senora del Pilar (a pillar now in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar) in Spain. (Wikipedia has details.) The route leading to the Santiago de Compostela—a shrine for St. James where his remains allegedly lie—has long been deemed the “Way of St. James.” The shrine is one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations in the world, and the military order of Santiago bears the cross of St. James.
The fiery St. James was one of Jesus’ 12 Apostles, and also the brother of John. Nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder,” James and John were well known for their short tempers. The brothers eagerly followed Jesus, but it’s accepted that James’ attitude led to an early death of beheading by Herod Agrippa I. (Get a Catholic perspective at American Catholic.) Nevertheless, Jesus found favor with James and allowed him to witness the Transfiguration.
The Spanish honor their saint today with parades, fireworks and more. In England, oysters are customarily eaten, because “Who eats oysters on St. James’s Day will never want.” (Learn more customs and get recipes at FishEaters.)