The origin of Celedón, symbol of the Vitoria Festivities
Celedón, an iconic character of Alavese folklore, has become a beloved and recognised figure in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Dressed in a typical blouse and carrying an umbrella, this villager has been an integral part of local celebrations and festivities. Over the years, the history and symbolism of Celedón has evolved, and its origin can be traced back to a combination of historical accounts and the creativity of a group of friends.
The person who inspired this character, Celedonio Anzola y García de Andoáin, was born on 25 September 1796 in the municipality of Zalduondo in Alava. He arrived in Vitoria when he was 21 years old in 1817. He married Gertrudis-Rufina Díaz de Argandoña on 21 May 1825, but life played a dirty trick on him and he was widowed at the age of 33. He married again on 2nd September 1829, this time to Nicasia Pérez de Albéniz. Finally, our Celedón left this world on 13 November 1866.
The figure of Celedón in its origins is closely linked to Zapatería street in Vitoria-Gasteiz. One of the most meticulous scholars on the subject, Venancio del Val, suggests that Celedonio, a bricklayer by trade, settled on the ground floor of his house in Calle de Zapatería, where he himself built a window and a balcony. Although some stories attribute a drinking nature to Celedonio, the accounts indicate that he was simply an occasional drinker and also a kind and affable person. Dressed in a long white blouse, Celedonius became the model for the character to be celebrated at local festivities.
However, the Celedonio we know today originated from a group of nine blouse friends in 1957. It was this group that came up with the idea of creating a doll that would descend down a rope during the festivities and then be “reborn” in person. José Luis Isasi, one of the promoters of the idea, was the first person to embody Celedón. Although on his first attempt the rope broke, this did not stop Isasi from stepping out onto the balcony and kicking off the festivities. Initially, Celedón descended from the tower of San Miguel to the Plaza Nueva, but later moved to the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca due to construction work.
The history of Celedón has been marked by special moments over the years. In 2007 the 50th anniversary of the first descent of Celedón was celebrated. During this commemorative event, Gorka Ortiz de Urbina and Iñaki Landa took an emotional walk together, remembering José Luis Isasi, who could not be present due to a serious illness. Since the character’s creation in 1957, four people have had the honor of playing Celedón: José Luis Isasi, who played him for 22 years; Enrique Oribe, who succeeded him in 1976; Iñaki Landa, who assumed the role from 1980 to 2000; and Gorka Ortiz de Urbina, who debuted as Celedón in 2001 until 2023.
Today, on the balcony of the church of San Miguel, you can admire a sculpture of Celedón made by Angel Benito Gastañaga. This work pays tribute to José Luis Isasi Moltalbán, the first Celedón and one of the creators of the figure of Celedón. This sculpture is a reminder of the evolution and importance of this emblematic character in the culture and traditions of Vitoria-Gasteiz.
In short, Celedón is much more than a simple festive character. Its history is intertwined with that of the city and its inhabitants, fusing historical stories with the creativity and passion of a group of friends who gave life to a figure that has endured over the years. As a symbol of community and local celebrations, Celedón continues to warm the hearts of the people of Alava and remind us of the importance of preserving our traditions and cultural roots.