On February 4, Santa Ageda bezpera, Saint Agatha’s Eve, communities across the Basque Country take to the streets of their towns and villages, or go from farm to farm in rural areas, singing and collecting money for charitable causes. People carry sticks and beat them slowly on the ground to the rhythm of the more solemn tunes they sing, as well as singing more lively koplak (verses). In some cases, bertsolariak (poetic oral improvisers) are on hand to create spontaneous verses. While this is the eve of a Christian festival, the act of communally beating the sticks against the ground is commonly interpreted as an older rite commemorating the end of Winter, a group effort to physically wake up the earth from its Winter rest.
Nowadays, kids are encouraged to learn the tradition and, as a bonus, they get to skip a few hours of school, as the following video, taken in Lesaka, Navarre, shows:
The celebration is also performed by organized groups, like the Uribarri Choir, here performing in the heart of Bilbao, in the Santutxu neighborhood:
And for a great video showing the tradition of going from baserri to baserri, signing koplak, check out the following, taken in Zestoa, Gipuzkoa (note the generous refreshments on offer in the farms, as well as the protagonism of bertsolariak):
In the classic work The Basques, Julio Caro Baroja discusses the importance of Saint Agatha’s Day itself in Basque culture, with this saint being venerated as especially important to women.