Barcelona is recognized as one of the most culturally developed cities in Europe, and is considered as a cultural center in the European continent. This city is home to a rich and vivid culture full of tradition. We will discover some of the celebrations and traditions in the Catalunya region.
Holy Week Tradition
Catalonia is one of the least religious regions of Spain, but however they pay respect to one of the most important weeks in the Christian Calendar; Easter. There are multiple Catalan Easter traditions that have been practiced for quite some time.
The most important day is Palm Sunday. This marks the day that the first liturgies of the Holy Week are carried out. There is a parade in honor of this day, and people sell white palm leaves as a symbol of the arrival of Jesus. Olive branches are hanged out the doors to protect the house from witches and evil spirits.
Another tradition are the representations of the Passion of Christ. There are multiple shows that are carried out in numerous theaters. The most famous ones are Cervera, Olesa de Montserrat, Ulldecona, Tarrega and Esparreguera.
The processions in Catalonia are also very famous, and the most renowned are “Procession of Silence”, “Procession of the Brotherhood and Brotherhood of Nazarenes of Our Father Jesus of Great Power” and “Mary of the Esperanza Macarena”. The breathtaking “Living Via Crucis” is another celebration that represents every good Friday for the last three hundred years.
Sant Jordi’s Day
Sant Jordi’s Day, or St. George’s Day, is a revered and deeply embedded tradition in Catalan culture, notably celebrated in Barcelona. The day, which falls on the 23rd of April, sees the Catalan capital transform into a vibrant festival of love, literature, and national pride. It is commonly referred to as the ‘Day of the Book and the Rose’.
The day is named after Sant Jordi, the patron saint of Catalonia. Sant Jordi is to Catalans what St. George is to the English, a legendary hero known for slaying a dragon to save a princess.
One enduring tradition on this day is the exchange of gifts: men gift women a rose, symbolic of the blood from the slain dragon, and women present men with a book, introduced in the 1920s to honour the coinciding deaths of renowned authors Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23rd, 1616.
The cityscape of Barcelona becomes embellished with roses and bookstalls, as residents and visitors immerse themselves in the festive spirit. Sant Jordi’s Day encapsulates a unique blend of chivalry, romance, and cultural identity, a testament to the rich tapestry of Catalan culture.
Carnival in Catalonia
People of Catalonia love to party, and the closest celebration after Christmas is Carnival. In Catalonia, it takes place between 4 and 10 February.
Documents have been found that show that Barcelona first celebrated Carnival in 1333. At the time, it was called the Council of One Hundred, prohibiting the throwing of oranges and regulating the use of the masks. This shows that Carnival has been taking place in Barcelona for more than 7 centuries. In the sixteenth century, new regulations came in power and the carnivals as we know them today were created. They were named “Fat Thursday, Carnival Friday and Ash Wednesday”. Costumes were later incorporated after the success of satire novels.
Each neighborhood of the city has a different celebration. Fat Thursday is dedicated to gastronomy, and you can find food stands that offer popular snacks and meals. Carnival Friday is celebrated as the arrival of the Carnival king. The party also continues on Saturday, and on Sunday the Carnival King parade begins, called “La Taronjada”.
Ash Wednesday is the closing party, and sardine is buried by tradition. Traditional snacks are also made and sold all around the city. The most famous carnival that takes place in Catalonia is the city of Sitges.
Castellers of Catalonia
One of the most distinguishing cultural features of Catalonia are the castellers. Castellers are groups of people who create human towers by climbing on top of each other. This is an old Catalonian tradition and is carried out in multiple locations.
The Feast of Mercè is one of the most important dates, as it’s one of Barcelona’s biggest parties. The castellers gather on 24 September and create human towers in the popular Sant Jaume square. The square is usually very populated by locals and tourists alike.
Els Minyons of Terrassa are another group of traditional collas, and the best celebrations take place in Terrassa, Barcelona. The third or fourth Sunday of November towers are usually the greatest and most impressive.
Castellers are also found in Vilanova and La Geltrú. They gather on the first weekend of August, and the biggest party is organized that same day. The Sunday afternoon is when the colla of the castellers begins.
Festivals of Barcelona are also amazing celebrations, with a long history of tradition. The fiestas de Gràcia gather some of the most famous castellers around. These fiestas usually take place in August.
Diada de Catalunya
The 11th day of September is a very important day for the Catalans. This is the day that is called the official holiday of Catalonia. There are multiple events carried out throughout the whole region.
This date comes from the War of Succession that took place in Spain during the 18th century. The last king of Austria, Carlos II died without any descendants. This leads to a war between families to grab the throne of Spain. The bourbons were led by Philip V, along with the Archduke of Austria. This provoked a civil war that ended in a siege. The siege ended on 11 September every year, and is marked as the day that Catalonia earned its legal status.
In Catalonia, the popular American holiday; Halloween, is not celebrated. Instead they celebrate a day that is called “La Castanyada”. The name of this celebration comes from the chestnut tree. It’s a traditional festival that is not only celebrated in Catalonia, but also in many other northern regions of Spain. From October to February, numerous sellers fill the streets selling chestnuts, day and night. This celebration is an homage to the deceased, and many traditional foods are consumed during this period of time. The foods include sweet potatoes, chestnuts, panellets, coconut almonds, chocolate or lemon flavors and moscatell. This is usually accompanied with sweet wine, and are consumed as a family dessert.
This tradition originates from the 19th century. Back then, the church bells were rang as a custom to commemorate the killed Catholics. They consumed chestnuts and other nuts during this period to keep their heart healthy during this mourning phase.
Today, it is known as the day of the Brazil nut, symbolizing an old woman selling chestnuts in a street corner. Even other areas of Barcelona pay their respects to this tradition, such as the Poble Espanyol. A big parade with giants takes place and the famous Brazil nut is made.
You can also celebrate Halloween, by booking an adventure at Portaventura. They take you through a horror amusement park. The hotel is a little bit pricy, but the experience itself is worth it. After all, it’s Halloween only once a year, isn’t it?