Traditions of Catalonia

There are quite a number of festivals and traditions in Catalonia (Spain). While most are of ancient origin, certain traditions are of relatively recent introduction. There are also some that are common to the whole Catalan society, but others are relevant only to a particular location. Generally, locals welcome outsiders to share with them in their celebration.

Festivals and celebrations

The correfocs, in which "devils" play with fire close the onlookers, is one of the most striking of the Catalan festive events. The devils are not considered the incarnation of evil; they are sprightly and festive characters, dancing to the sound of drums and the traditional gralla, while they set off their fireworks.

Another tradition occurs during the spring festival day of Sant Jordi (St George's Day, 23 April), in which men give roses (mostly in a deep red color) to women, and women give a book to men as a present. That day is also known as "Dia del Llibre" (Book Day), coinciding with the anniversaries of the deaths of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Josep Pla. The streets are full of people gathering around book and flower stands.

Perhaps the most spectacular of the Catalan festivals are those of the colles castelleres, groups of enthusiasts who form impressive human towers (up to ten people high). This is an old tradition of the Tarragona region, which has now spread to many parts of Catalonia, and has become a real spectacle, or sport, that attracts thousands of people. Amongst other important festivities are the carnivals over all the region,especially in Sitges, Solsona, Tarragona and Vilanova i la Geltrú, and the Patum in Berga.

In Catalonia, there are a few local Christmas traditions; one of them is the popular figure of the Tió de Nadal. Another custom is to put up a "Pessebre" Nativity scene, which often includes the Caganer, a figurine depicted in the act of defecation.[1] It is also traditional to hang small branches of mistletoe (vesc) above the doors.

Traditionally, all Catalan men and women are named after a Christian saint, Virgin or Biblical personality. Besides celebrating birthdays, Catalan people used to celebrate their given name saint's day, according to the General Roman Calendar.

The Catalan "Diada" or National Day of Catalonia is on September 11, after the defeat and surrender of Barcelona to the French-Castilian army of Philip V of Spain and his supporters during the War of Spanish Succession. Similarly November 7 is also remembered in Northern Catalonia after the Treaty of the Pyrenees.