Barcelona Photoblog: Catalan traditions
Showing posts with label Catalan traditions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catalan traditions. Show all posts

August 18, 2023

Festes de Gràcia: A Celebration of Community and Catalan Culture


The Festes de Gràcia, also known as the Festa Major de Gràcia, is the largest festival held each year in the charming neighborhood of Gràcia in Barcelona. Taking place for a week every August, this lively celebration brings together residents young and old through colorful street decorations, traditional Catalan dancing and music, delicious local cuisine, and a strong sense of community.

Origins and History

The Festes de Gracia is a popular neighborhood festival in Barcelona that traces its origins back to 1817. It began as a religious procession on August 15th to return an image of the Virgin Mary to a local convent after it had been hidden during the Peninsular War and in honor to the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. At the time, Gràcia was still its own independent town on the outskirts of Barcelona. After Gràcia was annexed into Barcelona in 1897 and over the next few decades, the festival became more focused on celebrating Catalan culture and community. It evolved into a week-long festival celebrated annually in August, with decorated streets, music, dance, theater, parades and more. By the early 20th century over 100 streets were decorated by local commissions. In 1935 attempts were made to organize the festival under one entity, but the Spanish Civil War interrupted this effort until 1956 when the Federation of Streets was formed to unite and organize the various celebrations. During the Franco dictatorship, when public use of the Catalan language and traditions was banned, the festival became an act of cultural resistance. Neighbors decorated streets with pro-independence symbols and sang banned Catalan songs. After dictatorship the festival flourished as an expression of Catalan culture and in 1997 was named a Traditional Festival of National Interest by the Catalan government. In 2009 the Federation became the Foundation of Festes de Gracia, focused on promoting the festival and Gracia culture. The Festes continues today as one of Barcelona's most popular events, bringing together neighbors to decorate streets and celebrate local heritage.

The Streets Come Alive

The most iconic part of Festes de Gràcia is the elaborate decorative displays along major streets and plazas. Local resident associations each select a theme and spend months preparing their street decorations, which are handmade from recycled materials. Past themes have ranged from under the sea to fairy tales to carnivals.

As you stroll through the decorated streets, you’ll feel fully immersed in these creative worlds. On Carrer de l’Or, you might believe you’re deep below the ocean thanks to paper fish dangling overhead. Wander down Carrer de Verdi, and you’ll think you’ve stepped into your favorite storybook or movie scene. It’s an incredible, ever-changing spectacle.

Some standout street decorations over the years include:

  • 2017's Skiing station at Travessia de Sant Antoni was the best street contest winner with an 'icy' and elaborate stage
  • In 2018, a rural farm full of animals gave the first prize to carrer Llibertat
  • Carrer del Progrés, representing the magic world of Harry Potter, won the award to best decorated street in Festa Major de Gràcia 2019.
  • 'El bosc dels llibres' or the Forest of Books, a magic place with a big mushroom as in a fairy tale gave carrer de la Santa Creu the first prize.
  • 2021, due to the pandemic, became a special year in which all streets were declared winners and congratulated on their efforts.
  • In 2022, carrer Verdi was the winner thanks to their inspiration in the famous Don Quixote by Cervantes
  • 2023 - Carrer Progrés has won the competition for decorated streets of the main festival in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona with a decoration inspired by the animated film "A Bug's Life, a miniature adventure" and named Formigres. The main characters are a group of giant ants that live in an anthill and are surprised by a plague of locusts that want to take their grain harvest.

The creativity and handcrafted details are astounding. As an attendee, you’ll feel fully transported wandering these merry miniature worlds. It’s an immersive experience found only during Festes de Gràcia.

Music, Dancing, and Traditions

Festes de Gràcia incorporates beloved Catalan traditions and performing arts. You’ll hear the sounds of the gralla, a traditional Catalan double reed instrument, accompanied by tabal drummers parading through the streets. Revelers form circles to dance the sardana, Catalonia’s national dance, accompanied by a cobbla band.

Human tower building, or castells, also play a central role. Teams compete to construct the highest and most complex human towers, with levels of four to ten people topped by a young child. It’s an impressive feat that requires coordination, balance, courage, and community support. You’ll spot gegants, large papier-mâché figures often depicting historic or folkloric characters, dancing and winding through the crowds.

There are also correfocs, or “fire runs” - parades of people dressed as devils who spin fire batons and set off firecrackers. The drums and fireworks make for an exciting and raucous spectacle, but keep your distance to avoid getting burned!

Some of the cultural activities that have delighted attendees include:

  • Nightly sardana dancing in Plaça de la Vila where all ages join hands and dance in circles.
  • Gegants representing Count Arnau and the legendary St. George parading down Carrer de Verdi.
  • A 25-foot dragon puppet weaving through the streets with glowing eyes and smoke billowing from its nostrils.
  • Children forming mini castells of just 3 tiers, encouraged by their community.
  • The correfoc finale lighting up Plaça del Sol with bursts of fire and sparklers.

The reverence for tradition fills the streets alongside playful revelry during Festes de Gràcia.

Bringing the Community Together

While Festes de Gràcia has grown into a major tourist attraction, its community focus remains.  Thousands of residents volunteer their time to put up decorations, run activities, and keep the celebration running smoothly helped by the Festa Major de Gràcia Foundation which is a non-profit organization that was born in 2009, heir to the tradition of the old Federació Festa Major de Gràcia. As the organization's statutes state, the Festa Major de Gràcia Foundation "has as its object the defense, promotion and dissemination of Catalan popular culture in its broadest sense, and in particular, the defense, promotion and dissemination of Festa Major de Gràcia, in all its aspects, recreational, cultural, sporting and neighborhood, with special protection for those lining the streets, squares and other spaces with similar characteristics. It also aims to research, archive and disseminate the historical documentation of traditional festivals in the old Villa and current district of Gràcia in the city of Barcelona".

For locals, the week of Festes de Gràcia provides a chance to showcase their community pride and talents. Neighbors spend time together decorating their streets in the months leading up to the festival. Friends and families attend concerts, enjoy local dishes from pop-up food stalls, and let loose dancing in the streets. Children grow up attending year after year, developing fond lifelong memories.

The festival ultimately strengthens social bonds and perpetuates traditions in one of Barcelona’s most tight-knit neighborhoods. Even if you’re just visiting Barcelona, you’ll easily feel the solidarity and spirit during Festes de Gràcia.

In terms of community-building, some highlights include:

  • Multi-generational families working side-by-side to decorate their assigned street over many months.
  • Impromptu lessons teaching visitors sardana dancing steps on the spot.
  • Grillades or barbeques held on decorated streets where the whole neighborhood is invited to eat, drink, and be merry together.
  • Local children excitedly pointing out their street's decorations to visitors and friends.
  • A tangible feeling of connection and belonging that spans generations of Festes de Gràcia participants.

The Persistence of Culture and Community

Festes de Gràcia perpetuate Catalan traditions and neighborhood pride. While its scale has expanded over two centuries, the community-driven spirit remains. Joining in the festivities allows you to fully appreciate Gràcia's singular culture.

When you attend Festes de Gràcia, you aren't just a spectator - you become part of the community celebrating its identity. That combination of stunning artistry and solidarity is what makes this one of Barcelona's most spectacular festivals. Through rocking out to sardanes or getting lost in an enchanting decorated street, you'll unlock Gràcia's vivacious heart.

Tips for Attending

Festes de Gràcia takes places from August 15th-21st each year. The decorated streets are accessible 24 hours a day, but come earlier to avoid the big crowds that pack the narrow streets at night. Wander through during the day to snap photos without people blocking your view, then return at night when the decorations are illuminated.

Schedule your visit on August 19th for the castellers competition or August 21st for the correfoc fire run finale. Check the schedule for concerts, dances, parades, and other special events. Most activities take place right on streets and squares, but some require tickets purchased in advance.

Dress comfortably to walk, dance, and navigate crowds. Wear closed toe shoes in case of stray firecrackers at the correfoc. Pack water and snacks so you can keep celebrating. And be sure to savor some classic Catalan dishes like paella and botifarra sausage sandwiches from the street food vendors.

The Festes de Gràcia offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience Catalan culture, community, and creativity. Join in the festivities to eat, dance, play, and celebrate like a true Barcelonian!

Festes de Gràcia Schedule Highlights

Monday August 14th - The festival kicks off with the opening speech and procession to Plaça de la Vila followed by concerts and castellers performances.

Tuesday August 15th - Includes the traditional Mass, parade, performances by grallers and bastoners, and the debut of the Bull of Gràcia.

Wednesday August 16th - Highlights are the parade and tribute to Saint Roc and the exhibition opening of the visiting gegants.

Thursday August 17th - The ceremony announcing the winners of the best decorated street contest.

Friday August 18th - Agenda has children's activities, a downhill walk, and nighttime castellers performances.

Saturday August 19th - Packed with parades and dances showcasing the guest gegants from Molins de Rei.

Sunday & Monday August 20-21 - Wraps up with drumming, fire performances, parades, and the closing correfoc fire run.

In summary, key events include lively celebrations, the contest ceremony, parades and tributes, cultural performances, concerts, and guest gegants festivities.

A full schedule in pdf or here at in Catalan only. Join the festivities to experience Catalan culture, community, and creativity! I think there should be an official translation of the schedule in English considering the amount of visitors to the activities. This is just a hint to whom it may concern.

Tips for Making the Most of Festes de Gràcia

As one of Barcelona's biggest festivals, Festes de Gràcia offers endless opportunities for fun. Here are some insider tips to help you make the most of the experience:

  • Arrive early to beat the crowds if you want to closely see the decorated streets and snap photos. The streets pack with people at night.
  • Consider taking a guided walking tour for context about the history and meaning behind traditions like castellers and sardanes.
  • Pack a picnic dinner or snacks to enjoy on the streets and save money. Beer, wine, water and soft drinks are sold in local shops.
  • Download the festival app or pick up a program to plan which special events, concerts, and activities to attend each day and night.
  • Dress comfortably in layers. August is hot during the day but can be cool at night. Wear closed toe shoes in case of stray fireworks.
  • Practice your Catalan! Learn key phrases like "Bon dia" (Good day), "Gracies" (Thank you), and "Visca Festes de Gràcia!" (Long live the Gràcia Festival!).
  • Connect with locals by complimenting their street decorations or joining in dances. The festival is all about community.
  • Check the schedule of metro and bus services, as some may be rerouted during the festival. Walking and taxis are other good options.

Immerse yourself in the celebrations to create unforgettable Festes de Gràcia memories!

Celebrating Community

At its core, Festes de Gràcia is a celebration of community. In a city as large and diverse as Barcelona, the bonds between neighbors that the festival fosters are invaluable. The collaborative efforts involved in putting up decorations, organizing activities, and volunteering create ties that strengthen Gràcia's social fabric.

While the raucous revelry draws in visitors from across the world, the festes remain committed to Catalan traditions and culture. No matter your background, you'll be welcomed into Gràcia's community spirit during the festivities.

Festes de Gràcia demonstrates the heights that can be achieved when people come together creatively for a common purpose. The awe-inspiring decorations, stirring traditional dances, and shared pride of residents offer inspiration.

As the nights ring out with music and laughter, you'll leave with an appreciation for community, culture, and connection. That is the true magic of Festes de Gràcia, unchanged throughout two hundred years of celebrating what makes this neighborhood great. 

Needless to say that although visitors are more than welcomed, respect for local traditions must prevail. Basically, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or better said, don't do unto know the rest. This also applies for more than a local or two.


  • Festes de Gràcia is an annual week-long festival held in mid-August in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona
  • Originating in 1817 as a religious feast day, it has evolved into a secular celebration of Catalan culture and community
  • The highlights are the spectacular decorated streets designed around creative themes by local resident associations
  • Traditional Catalan elements include sardana dancing, castellers human towers, gegants (giant puppets), and correfocs (fire runs)
  • The festival features live music, parades, children's activities, and abundant food and drink
  • While it draws tourists, the festes are organized by local volunteers to bring the community together
  • The festive atmosphere celebrates Gràcia's unique local identity and perpetuates Catalan traditions
  • Joining in the festivities allows you to connect with Gràcia's welcoming spirit and appreciate Barcelona at its best
  • Festes de Gràcia is a one-of-a-kind expression of creativity, culture, and community that encapsulates the soul of Catalonia
Pied Piper of Hamelin at carrer Verdi del Mig - Festes de Gracia 2023

August 22, 2021

Beasts of Barcelona - The Lion - El Lleo de la Ciutat


The lion of Barcelona - Beasts of the city

What better to resume Barcelona Photoblog's posting than showing one of the leading figures in our festivities and an important member of the bestiari, a Catalan term to refer to a group of real and imaginary animals of Medieval origins mainly associated to Corpus processions. The lion represented Mark the Evangelist and the Eagle, Saint John. Both 'beasts' are also part of El Seguici de la Ciutat

Together with the Eagle, the Lion (Lleó) is always presiding over the parades, especially during Corpus, La Mercè or Santa Eulalia. Our particular king of the jungle, or at least, the first impersonations made by men wearing costumes, date back to the fifteenth century and it is not till 1600s that it appears as it is today. He was completely gone during most part of the last century until his stellar reappearance back in the 90s. Franco's regime was not very fond of rescuing Catalan traditions. 

Of course parading the animal is adorned by its own dance and music, The Dance of the Lion. There used to be roaring, many years ago, but Charles III forbid such ignominious noisy doings to the disillusionment of our citizens. We have to thank local groups like Associació d'Amics dels Gegants del Pi for the initiative of bringing back the Lion in 1993. 

Maybe some other day I write more about other fantastic beasts that run wild in our imagination thanks to the magic of our cultural heritage, the Catalan folklore. I leave you with the manes of a ferocious and yet gentle beast that I want to dedicate to all those born a Leo, like this humble blogger. 

PS: Do not forget to visit La Casa dels Entremesos to see replicas of the bestiari.

June 24, 2019

Sant Joan's Eve Cocas and Fireworks

One more year Catalonia and its capital Barcelona celebrate the arrival of summer with this traditional festivity known as Revetlla de Sant Joan /Verbena de San Juan / Saint John's Eve.

Sant Joan is a moment to share with family and friends and who made the first bonfire is certainly unknown since all the summer welcoming celebrations of history occurred once in a long gone night of mankind when it was time to thank the gods, make a toast for past victories, blessing crops and guarantee a better future. The longest day of the year, the solstice seems to be the perfect occasion to rejoice from dusk to dawn drinking and eating in the most pagan ways. Fortunately there is no need to sacrifice animals or virgins anymore.

Of course in spite of the 'tribal rituals' of the night there is also the feast that commemorates Saint John The Baptist's birth that no one seems to remember anymore. The fact is that bonfires made of bones and wood, something rather hard to find in Barcelona nowadays, are called St John's Fire and that was perfect to repel witches in the past, who knows if even today!

The bonfires can be seen along the Catalan geography by the thousands especially at the beach (a celebration that this year 2019 generated 20 tons of crap on the capital's waterfront)

Those who prefer to celebrate at home or on the city streets, limit themselves to fireworks of all sorts like the one on top that, as somebody suggested to me at the Barcelona Reddit, looks like one of Dr. Strange's portals.

The stars of the night are the famous Cocas de Sant Joan which are of different kinds according to the ingredients. Here is a Coca made of brioche, candied fruit, pine nut and cream filling.

Here is another Coca de Sant Joan known as Coca de Llardons, a flat pastry cake made with eggs, sugar, pork crackling (llardons) and pine nuts. What if you try a Coca de Llardons recipe?

Do not forget some nice Catalan cava as the perfect dressing of a memorable evening!

November 23, 2017

Becoming a Pubilla, An Ancestral Tradition in Catalonia


Every year pubilles and hereus from all over Catalonia participate in a contest summoned by organizations that promote traditions of the past in the region. As was described in a previous post in Barcelona Photoblog, a pubilla is the heiress in a family where there is no son. She is the eldest daughter, must be between 16 and 21 years old and inherits the home and the estate. The hereu, is the heir, in those cases when there is a son. Families with pubilles were supposed to receive a contribution from the family of the groom, that unlike dowries, were voluntary. This contribution was called aixovar, from Arabic, assovár.

Being elected as the pubilla or the hereu of their municipality or in a final national contest, the representatives of all Catalonia, is a privilege for these youngsters who feel proud of defending the traditions of their ancestors. They will be honor guests in all minor festivities concerning these matters around Catalonia and will be received by the president of the Catalan parliament. A visit to Montserrat Monastery will be a must in their schedule.

Check also this post about Pubilles and Hereus or this one featuring a dancer in traditional dress.

February 28, 2013

Caganers and Politicians

Caganers a Barcelona, estelada
Caganers and politicians have one thing in common, they both do the same s***. Caganers do it on the floor and it looks funny, politicians do it everywhere they go to give a speech and pass an antidemocratic law and that is certainly not funny. A caganer can impersonate almost everybody, it depends on the imagination of the artist that designs them. Caganers are used frequently to mock popular personalities although originally these figurines are meant for Nativity scenes. Caganers are from Catalonia and other regions nearby and it is common that they wear Catalan traditional clothes, that is, a white shirt, a barretina (red cap), dark pants and a faixa (a sort of sash or band around the waist). We have seen some interesting examples of caganers in Barcelona Photoblog in the past, as is the case of George Bush next to Fidel Castro and Artur Mas or Rafa Nadal, the famous tennis player. In today's image we see a traditional caganer turning his back on us, surrounded by a bunch of similar fellows and apparently just doing what they do best, dropping their stools, although this time there is a certain difference, he is wearing the Estelada or starred flag that is waved by Catalan independentists that is slightly different from the Senyera, accepted as the official Catalan flag. As you can see, although Caganers still represent the common people and mock almost anything, even politicians, they can be used to send a subtle message to whom it may concern.

December 04, 2012

Stick Dancers or Bastoners: Anklet with Bells Detail

Bastoners or Stick dancers shoes detail

Catalan folklore feeds on ancient traditions lost in the common past of Mediterranean countries. Stick dance (Cat. Ball de Bastons) was documented for the first time in Catalonia in XII a.d. and then more frequently after XVIII but it has always been part of this region's history besides the fact that it came either from the Greeks, some parts of Asia or even other regions in Europe. The exact origin is uncertain. In the Basque country this dance is very extended as well for example and each region has their own peculiarities when it comes to dresses, sticks or ways of dancing. I am not going to enter into that. Maybe talking about Bastoners or stick dancers as they are today, organized in groups or colles as they have been for the last three centuries according to historical records is easier. To begin with, let me say that there are more than 100 colles all over Catalonia perhaps and about fifty are grouped under the direction of Coordinadora de Ball de Bastons de Catalunya. They all have their own history that is normally linked to the town or neighborhood in which they live. The feet you see in the image, adorned with bells (Cat. picarols) sewn into this piece of cloth called camal or turmellera belong to a stick dancer from a group called Bastoners de Gràcia. I have more pictures of this colla to be posted here. I just want to add for the moment that these colles may be made up of 8,10,12 or 16 dancers. One of them carries a flag with their symbols and the name of the group and usually they also have that name or badge embroidered in their clothes. They carry handkerchiefs around their necks and a colorful waistband over white pants and shirts. Besides they wear espadrilles (Cat. espardenyes). More to know soon.

January 29, 2012

L'Ou Com Balla or The Dancing Egg, Barcelona Cathedral

L'Ou Com Balla or Dancing Egg in Barcelona Cathedral, Barri Gotic
L'Ou Com Balla tradition at Barcelona Cathedral, Barri Gotic, Barcelona

In the cloister of the Cathedral of Barcelona there is a beautiful fountain decorated with flowers that reminds you of idyllic gardens, of some paradise lost on earth.

It is the Sant Jordi fountain. Surfing over the soft cushion of its water jet once a year you can see a fragile eggshell that seldom falls which is called the L'Ou Com Balla, which translated literally from Catalan means how the egg dances or how dances the egg.

This is not the only place in Barcelona where you can find a dancing egg (there's one a la Casa de l'Arcadia or at Museum Frederic Mares' courtyard for example) but I think this is the one with more tradition, a tradition that goes back to the XIVth century and has to do with Corpus Christi celebrations, the eggshell itself representing the body of Christ.

The exact date to see L'Ou com Balla changes but it takes place at the end of May or in June depending on Corpus Christi Feast.

December 07, 2011

What Will Cagatio Bring For Christmas?


El Tio de Nadal or Cagatio (Christmas log, pooping log or shit log) a piece of wood that kids hit on Christmas eve or Christmas day with a stick so it poops presents to the beat of a monotonous song (here is a good example of Caga Tio found on Youtube), is deep rooted in Catalan traditions and strangely blends with imported gift couriers like Santa or the Three Wise Men, and being just a log and all, the point is that it surely is time enduring. It has even evolved from just a simple wooden block to a smiling face wearing a Catalan hat (barretina).

But why am I talking about Christmas presents and Tió so early in December? You should know that our pooping log is to be fed and taken care of in advance (starting Advent for many people or by Immaculate Conception Day on December 8 for some) should you want to have good presents by Christmas (usually it delivers just candies, nougat, sweet stuff till it starts pooping odd things like herring, coal, garlic, onion which are a clear sign for kids to stop asking). Hitting a log and getting gifts back in return is kind of a contradiction, a rather violent thing to teach a child you might say. There are opinions about this. It seems that this is due to the fact that at present, in those houses where there is no fireplace, the beating is just an imitation of the act of poking the fire but I am not sure children are aware of that. Tió, really means, any thick log cut into pieces to feed a fire. And it is meant to be burnt a little for the gifts to start showing.

By now, you have figured out what Caga Tió will bring for Christmas if handled with care, if well fed and protected under its comfortable blanket by the fire. However, I wonder, in these times of global crisis, in this period of domestic chaos, of intestine struggle between right and left, rich and poor, banks and indebted citizens, what a log can poo, other than disenchantment.

September 27, 2010

Catalan Pubilla and Dancing Partner

Pubilla dancing

There was a very similar image in Barcelona Photoblog of a young maiden or pubilla dancing in Monistrol, a town at the foot of Montserrat mountain. In that old post I explained what a pubilla or an hereu are and I also talked about the dance and garments. As the previous picture had a vintage effect (kind of daguerreotype), in this one I preserved colors for you to compare.

December 27, 2009

L'Auca del Senyor Esteve, Tile Work at Carrer Petritxol, Barcelona

L'Auca del Senyor Esteve, Tile Work at Carrer Petritxol, Barcelona

This tile work depicts L'Auca del Senyor Esteve based upon a novel by Santiago Rusiñol i Prats (1861-1931) published in 1907 and set on stage in 1917.

27 drawings by Ramon Casas and 27 rodolins or verses by Gabriel Alomar illustrate the original story narrated by Rusiñol which is about a young heir called Ramonet, a modernist artist born in a traditional petite bourgeois family of La Ribera quarter in Barcelona.

The father, Mr. Esteve was the founder of a small shop called La Puntual in 1830 and his common sense, his pragmatism, his perseverance directly opposes the new ideas, the fresh artistic air of his son. A conflict between the artist that exists thanks to his father's money and strivings or in other words, the historic role of traditional Catalan bourgeoisie as the springboard for new artists of modernisme.

But what is an auca anyway? An auca is a story told by a set of images in one single sheet of paper in numbers evenly divided by 4, generally 24 or 48, and some short text under each illustration (xylography, lithography and later photoengraving techniques were used). It might recall comics in a way but much more rigid in structure. Images are conditioned by the metrics or the rhyme of the text always below and out of the illustration.

Auca is an old variant of oca, meaning goose, an animal quite frequent in this sort of artwork. Everything started with cards depicting animals and natural elements, like the Sun and the Moon that were used to play the game by the same name or for divination in many cases for money. Once this activity was forbidden the animation developed into art. The text also evolved into two-line rhymed rodolins in XIX.

December 24, 2009

We Cagatios, the Whole Log Family Together Wish you a Merry Christmas!

Group of Caga Tios in Santa Llucia market

Hello my friends, we don't have snow, we haven't seen Santa Claus yet but we are all here awake, waiting for the magic moments to arrive. The whole family of Catalan cagatiós (yes, they call us pooping logs cause we also bring gifts when kids hit us with a rod) wish all our friends and their families a Merry Christmas.

October 12, 2009

Catalan Dance - Pubilla and Hereu

Catalan Folk Dance of Pubilles and Hereus

Some time ago families with no sons considered their first born daughter to be their heiress. In case there were several daughters, the pubilla, as so was called the heiress, would keep three thirds of the family's patrimony leaving the rest for her sisters. She had the right to change her descendants' last name in order not to lose their family name. But, if the child was a male, he was automatically considered to be the hereu (heir). There was no room for gender equalities back then and the topic unfortunately lingers in our modern societies.

Nowadays although the tradition is gone, cultural organizations in Catalonia support the appointment of pubillas and hereus to officially represent their town in a symbolic way. The chosen ones participate in public activities as such and it is really an honor for them. 

Being a pubilla or an hereu only happens once and it will last just one year. As to my image which was taken at Monistrol de Montserrat near Barcelona, I would like to say that I was instantly trapped in the magic of the pose, the arm, the fishnet gloves (mitenes) and the hair net (gallana). These two elements are also part of the traditional Catalan dress so they may be just dancers but I wanted to talk about Catalan traditions. 

I hope you like the old photo effect to give it some historic mood.

January 27, 2009

Catalan Traditional Dress and Pubillas

Catalan Traditional Dress and Pubillas [enlarge]

A Catalan woman wearing the traditional dress. You should know that there are some differences between the traditional garment and a pubilla's dress. But what is a pubilla

Long ago, Catalan families with no male descendants considered the first daughter as the heiress in the family. In case there were more sisters, she kept three fourths of the family's patrimony. So an heiress is called pubilla and the male counterpart is called hereu. Pubillas helped preserved the family's last name in case of not having a male descendant. 

At present the pubilla tradition is kept in Catalan towns just for cultural purposes. Some towns elect their pubilla among young ladies (pubilla derives from puberty) who are to act as representatives of Catalonia's culture. Pubillas can only be elected once and during one single year to yield the position to other ladies. Both pubillas and hereus are accompanied by maids of honor and fadrins (brothers that are not heirs) respectively. 

I am not an expert on this matter but I would say this is just a traditional dress, age factors aside. A pubillas's dress is made of a more expensive fabric and shawls are made of a more elaborate lace. They wear shoes and not espadrilles although both the traditional and the pubilla's way of dressing include the elbow length fishnet gloves and the hair net.

I find it fascinating to learn about these old traditions from Catalonia that if it weren't for the perseverance of its people would be lost long time ago.

November 17, 2008

Cagatio or Pooping Log, A Christmas Catalan Tradition

Cagatio or Pooping Log, A Christmas Tradition in Catalonia

Another ancestral tradition of the Catalan people consists in bringing children in front of this magic log called Cagatio (pooping log) so it "excretes" Christmas gifts. Yes, the wooden buddy is supposed to poop those hidden treasures that kids pick up from under a red blanket conveniently covering the figure.

Before introducing their hands they are encouraged to repeatedly hit the log using a rod just in case, to warn the tió he'd better do as he's told. In the meantime, relatives or school friends, depending on the situation, sing this familiar song of which I will translate an excerpt. It is a folk song and popular lyrics tend to be rather "vulgar" so please overlook the many poops. First phrase is in Catalan and second in Spanish.

Caga tió -caga tió- poop tió,
ametlles i torró -almendras y turrón- almonds and nougat,
no caguis arangades -no cagues arenques- do not poop brined herring,
que són massa salades -que son demasiado salados- cause it's too salty,
caga torrons -caga turrones- do poop nougat,
que són més bons -que son más buenos- that is more tasty,
Caga tió -caga tió- poop tió,
ametlles i torró -almendras y turrón- almonds and nougat,
si no vols *** -si no quieres ***- if you refuse,
et donaré un cop de bastó -te daré un golpe de bastón- I'll hit you with this rod,
Caga tió! -caga tió- poop tió!

November 16, 2008

Barcelona Caganers: Rafa Nadal

Rafa Nadal Caganer Figure

Among the many traditions of Catalonia, there is one which is rather peculiar: the Caganers. These small figures that originally represented a payés (peasant) making "number two", are part of Catalan nativity scenes. There was a moment in history in which not only the peasant was characterized in this prosaic posture (feces included) but also celebrities, local authorities, religious men, international renown personalities, presidents. This year's sensation was Obama. I showed Fidel Castro and Bush together in a previous post. I visited Santa Llucia Christmas market and chose this one for you, number one tennis player Rafa Nadal. I suppose it is always pleasing to show people as they really are, deprived of all the aura and power. I hope you don't feel offended and get to understand this deep rooted tradition of ours.

November 08, 2008

Dancers Holding Hands

Dancers Holding Hands

Catalan folk dancers holding hands dressed as the heir or hereu and heiress or pubilla during a performance at Monistrol de Montserrat. Rather than the whole body I thought the detail of the hands holding tight would make the scene more poetic. Although this image was taken in October this year, there are similar posts published in the past. Check them here: Dancers and Catalan Folk Dance Troupe

June 24, 2008

Sant Joan Firecrackers: Launching Gadget Closeup

Sant Joan Firecrackers: Launching Gadget Closeup [enlarge]

The word petardo in Spanish or petard in Catalan has different meanings: banger, firecracker, that is, a small explosive device. Not only that, it can be someone or something that's boring. Sometimes it can be a fraud but the most curious entries are "a hag, an old hag" what we know as a petarda and a joint, you know, the smoking kind. My intention today was to show not only firecrackers but the gadgets some people use to launch the artifacts. Many are completely handmade and others can be bought in stores. By the way, firecrackers are sold at special stalls which are regulated by city authorities. Normally they are located in the middle of a square with some fences all around and only two clients can be in front of the counter at the same time. Apart from that, you can also find specialized shops and major dealers for professional purposes.

March 12, 2008

Catalan Traditions: Calçotada. A Close Look


Half way between leeks and onions, there is a plant known in Catalonia as calçot which has become part of our most popular traditions, the calçotada:

According to some sources calçots were first cultivated in XIX by a lonely peasant called Xat de Benaiges in Valls, Tarragona.

In this close shot, you can appreciate the white bulbs that soon will turn completely black on the grill.

 Although they can be served on a roof tile, or a common plate, many times you simply pile them up in small amounts and wrap them in newspapers to keep them warm till served. They are quite tasteless, or better said, they taste like onions but without the biting feeling in your tongue. In fact, it is a very soft and delicate flavor that calls for a tasty sauce, in this case, romescu made of ground almonds and hazelnuts, vinegar, olive oil, salt, dry red peppers known as choriceros and paprika.

Don't forget to use a bib to avoid the stains caused by the sauce and keep your fingers away from your clothes. Why so? Well, when you learn about the ritual you'll understand.

  1. First you spread the newspaper bundles on the table and everybody gathers around, usually standing with a bowl of sauce nearby. 
  2. Now it's time to peel one of them. You take the plant by the leaves and pressing upon the tip of the white bulb with the other hand you try to pull away carefully the burnt out external layer. This you learn with practice. It must come out neatly without smashing the content.
  3. Then you leave the peel aside (now the hand used for peeling is a mess) and soak the bulb in the sauce, haul it towards your mouth and take a good bite only on the white part of the plant. The rest you throw away.

After this repeat the process at will. Of course, wine is mandatory in this case. Maybe I have been too descriptive today but I have noticed in the past that calçotada details are too often overlooked. Bon appetite!

March 11, 2008

Catalan Food: White Sausages and Spring BBQs

Catalan Food: White Sausages and Spring BBQs [enlarge]

This boiled white sausage ristra I captured with my camera a long time ago but now that Spring is coming and people in Catalonia tend to set out for countryside barbecues, it looks relevant. The sausages or butifarras in this story were cooked during a matanza (pig slaughter) that took place in Lleida, one of Catalonia's provinces. Some more pictures and comments about traditional Catalan cuisine were published here in the past: Blood Sausage and Catalan Sausage

October 22, 2007

Gathering Wild Mushrooms or Bolets in Catalonia, Spain

Gathering Wild Mushrooms or Bolets in Catalonia, Spain [enlarge]

In the months of October and November a large number of Catalans hit the road to go picking wild mushrooms or bolets in the countryside. Although there are many edible species we use the name bolets to refer to all of them. But then there are specific names according to the type like rovellons, rossiñols, ceps, llanegas. In general they are served fried with some garlic and parsley but you can have them in stews, with meat,etc. The mushrooms in the picture were part of a small sample on sale at Sant Iscle de Vallalta fair. This town is located in Maresme, a comarca or county along the coast next to Barcelones county where Barcelona City is. Once a year a market is set up to sell mushrooms and we decided to pay them a visit for the first time to try some. If you are interested, there are a bunch of similar activities in November. Check this Maresme Coast brochure in pdf to see the whole activity program.

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