Fiestas calle san sebastian puerto rico: Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián

Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián: The History Behind the Festival | by Local Guest

For many Puerto Ricans, the third week of January is still Christmas and it is exactly the point where all the holiday feasts get to an end. During that third weekend of January, takes place the traditional Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián (Street Festival) which celebrates the saint and also a series of traditions in the old city. When in history was the moment these feasts became so important for Puerto Ricans? Let’s go back in time to understand a little bit of the context of these celebrations.

Rafaela Balladares, organizer of the celebration since the decade of the 70’s

During the decade of the 50’s, Father Juan Manuel Madrazo, the priest of the San José Church started to organize the festivities to commemorate the life of the saint and to raise money to repair the church. When the father was removed from the church, the festivities went into a hiatus until the 70’s. It was the historian and anthropologist Ricardo Alegría who proposed to Rafaela Balladares de Brito, a resident of the San Sebastián Street to revive the tradition.

Picture by Sonando en Puerto Rico

During the first years of the festival, it was common that at 6am they would play a reveille across the street to announce the celebration which included a tambourine, a drum, a clarinet, a trumpet and a trombone. People in the street decorated their balconies and artists worked on different paintings to be exposed during the celebrations. There was a procession with the image of the Saint on the street on which the Pleneros and the Cabezudos joined afterwards.

Cabezudos being part of the procession

Originally, the festivities only lasted during daytime and they were celebrated on two different weekends. For years, it was questioned if the feast was worth it. It wasn’t until the decade of the 90’s and 00’s when the festivity took another vibe and, beyond the religious importance, it became a massive festival.

The Festival is celebrated before January 20th, and that weekend, the whole city transform itself with the festival vibes. Many liquor brands offer special promotions during the festival and a musical line up is set in different stages around the city. Inside the Cuartel de Ballajá most artisans sell their stuff while in the streets, people sing different chants and dances along with the pleneros.

Most of its original traditions of the morning are still observed by the residents of Old San Juan, who participate in the procession that ends up in the San Juan Cathedral. The busiest times of the festival tend to be during the night time when most of the musical acts and celebrations take place.

Definitely, las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián is one of the biggest festivities in the island. If you are a lover of festivals and want to experience Carnivals in Rio, Venice or Mardi Gras, las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián should also be in your bucket list. During these days, Puerto Ricans offer their best party vibes that include most of our traditions like bomba and plena dancing around the streets. If you are a Salsa lover, there will be plenty of places where you can dance. Exploring the Old San Juan in the middle of these festivities will make of this experience a whole new different one.

Have you been to las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián? Tell us what was your favorite thing about it?

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían 2023

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián (San Sebastían Street Festival) is the street fair in beautiful Old San Juan that ends Puerto Rico’s Christmas season, the world’s longest.

It’s Puerto Rico’s most popular festival. Locals call it the SanSe. [It’s a little joke. Sanse is Puerto Rican slang for a West African faith based on forces of nature that is popular in the Caribbean. Trust me. It’s all good.]

Calle San Sebastían is a beautiful colonial street of bars and restaurants. The festival also includes a street fair of Puerto Rican artisans. The party spills over into La Perla, the beloved shanty town along the ocean just beyond the city’s walls.

La Factoría, one of the world’s 50 best bars, is on Calle San Sebastían. It is one of the best places to dance Salsa in San Juan.

Puerto Ricans come to the SanSe from all over the island and across the diaspora. It’s the time to be home. If the walls of the city could talk, there would be many wonderful stories to tell. It’s probably a good thing that walls don’t talk. 🥳🥳

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían 2023

The party should return Thu-Sun, Jan 12-15, 2023. [Thanks to Keisha for the typo correction!]

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían 2022

The City of San Juan officially cancelled the celebration because of the rise in the Covid Omicron variant. Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían 2022 (San Sebastián Street Fair) was scheduled for Thu-Sun, Jan 13-16, 2022.

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían 2021

Friday-Monday, January 15-18, 2021 ~ It’s cancelled this year to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Puerto Ricans are celebrating from home.

The diaspora in Fort Worth, Texas is hosting a virtual SanSe on Sunday, January 31, 2021 at

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían 2020

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián (SanSe) in 2020 (© Keith Widyolar/New York Latin Culture Magazine)

The Puerto Rican diaspora cried so much about the earthquakes in the southwest corner of the island, that even though the SanSe went on, the tourists didn’t come. The earthquakes only impacted parts of three or four counties in the southeast. There was no danger in San Juan, but the diaspora crying made tourists cancel their travel and hotel bookings. They didn’t spend any money in Puerto Rico.

The financial loss to all Puerto Ricans on the island was significant. It was a shame because many artisans rely on their sales from the SanSe to make it through the entire year. With good intentions, the diaspora killed it.

Please talk up the island, but don’t talk it down. You hurt us for no good reason.

Puerto Rico Has the World’s Longest Christmas Season

Christmas season starts in Puerto Rico on November 19, Discovery Day. Things build up past Christmas to Three Kings Day, the Latin gift-giving day.

The season continues with Las Octavitas, the octave of Three Kings. Octaves are a remnant of colonial Catholicism which celebrated festivals for eight days, not just one. Celebrating las Octavitas remains part of Puerto Rican identity.

Las Octavitas gets us to the SanSe. ¡WEPA!

Then we all go back to work, counting the days until next November.

Puerto Rico



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San Sebastian Street Festival 2023 helps us say goodbye with joy

Home / North America / San Juan / San Sebastian Street Festival

Sometimes we just don’t want Christmas to end. The San Sebastian Street Festival helps us say goodbye for another year with joy. The event fills the old town with locals and visitors, so book your stay as early as possible.

San Sebastian Street Festival or «Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastian» is Puerto Rico’s largest festival and the unofficial end to the world’s longest holiday season.

During the many days of San Sebastian Street Festival celebrations, San Juan is filled with live music, impromptu dances on every corner and even circus performances!

By day, the squares and streets of the old town are filled with local artists and artisans who display and sell everything from paintings to handmade jewelry.

As soon as the sun goes down, the walled city hosts numerous concerts and parties, and the joyful fun continues until late at night.

About 500 artists and musicians entertain the crowd, and hundreds more dress up in costumes and masks to parade through the streets.

San Sebastian Street Parade

  • Sunday, January 16 — The parade with large traditional masks «Vegigantes» is the main highlight of the festival on San Sebastian Street.
  • 350 local artisans who set up stalls on San Sebastian and other streets offer traditional handmade jewelry and delicious food. There are many dance performances by professionals and just passers-by.
  • Plaza del Quinto Centenario, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Colon and Plaza de La Barandilla have large stages with live concerts from 5:11 am to 11:00 pm.

Gay events in San Sebastian, San Juan

  • Go to gay parties in Condado, Old San Juan and Santurce. The Condado area is located in the heart of the city.
  • The Santurce area is the arts and nightlife center of San Juan. During the day, it’s a historic fruit market, and on weekend evenings, Santurce’s Plaza del Mercado square is full of restaurants and bars.
  • For a fun time with handsome men, head to SX or Temptation, both in Santurce.
  • Head to Scandalo for the most popular drag shows and weekend after hours (02:00 to 12:00).

History of the San Sebastian Festival

San Sebastian (Saint Sebastian) was killed for his faith, becoming a martyr, and there is a street in Old San Juan named after him. The San Sebastian Festival was first held in the 1950s and was organized by a church located on San Sebastian Street. K 19In the 1970s, it became one of the most massive events attracting hundreds of thousands of people.

If you are not staying in Old San Juan, plan to arrive as early as possible. Traffic in Old San Juan will be extremely heavy and slow due to the influx of festival goers and road closures.

Take a look at our San Juan Local Guide

Here are the hotels we recommend to have good reviews and keep you close to all the action in

O: Live Boutique Hotel, AC Marriott Hotel, Condado Ocean Club, Coca del Mar.

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O: Live Boutique Hotel

5 Star, Suite

O: Live Boutique Hotel is located in the fashionable Condado area. It features Mediterranean décor and stylish suites. Free Wi-Fi and suites include luxurious hydromassage rain showers. Part of the world’s smaller luxury hotels. It features a rooftop terrace with an infinity pool overlooking the Condado Lagoon. The suites are equipped with a flat-screen cable TV and L’Occitane toiletries.

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AC Marriott Hotel

4 Star Readers’ Choice

AC by Marriott San Juan Condado is located in the Condado area of ​​San Juan. It features a year-round outdoor pool and spa. own restaurant. All rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property. Hotel amenities include AC Kitchen, AC Lounge restaurant, fitness center, unique rooftop bar and swimming pool.

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Condado Ocean Club

4 Star, excellent quality

Condado Ocean Club features a restaurant, outdoor pool, a fitness center and bar. 24-hour front desk and room service, free Wi-Fi. ATM, concierge service. All air-conditioned rooms at the hotel are equipped with a seating area, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a safe and a private bathroom with a shower, bathrobes, a desk and a coffee machine.

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Coqui del Mar

3 stars, LGBTQ Hotel

Coqui del Mar — LGBTQ Hotel — Adults Only offers studios and fully furnished apartments with free Wi-Fi, communal, two pools and a hot tub. It is located just 400 meters from the beautiful Caribbean coast of San Juan. The studios at this guest house are brightly decorated and feature a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with shower and toilet. The apartments have a fully equipped modern kitchen.

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San Sebastian Festival Video

Calle San Sebastian Holiday 2020

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