Caga Tió, Caganers, and Los Reyes Magos-
Although it has become popular in recent years, traditionally Christmas (or at least the version with Santa Claus) has not really been celebrated in Catalonia. They do, however, celebrate Three Kings Day on January 6th, and they celebrate something called “Caga Tió” on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Caga Tió, which roughly translates to “Pooping Dude,” is a magical cut tree stump with a face and a Catalan hat traditionally worn by farmers or people living on the countryside. Often parents will take their children to a forest to “find” Caga Tió , then they bring him home and place a blanket behind him. The children then feed Caga Tió in the days leading up to Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, depending on the family. When the day arrives, children beat Caga Tió with sticks and sing a song saying things like “Poop hazelnuts, don’t poop fish, they are too salty, poop turrons, they are tastier.” At the end of the song, the kids will command the tree stump to poop and the blanket will be pulled away revealing the presents that have been “pooped.” Also, in the month of December “caganers” will be on sale throughout Catalonia. They are a good luck symbol because it is believed that Catalan farmers had a big harvest after using their own feces as manure. They are now commonly featured in Catalan nativity scenes, and many celebrities are “honored” by being made into caganers. A wide variety of celebrity caganers can be found, but some of my favorites are R2-D2 and C3P0, who poop nuts and bolts.
Día de Sant Jordi-
As Valentine’s Day is historically not celebrated in Catalonia, the biggest romantic holiday in Catalonia is Dia de Sant Jordi. The legend of Saint George (Jordi in Catalan) goes like this: A dragon was pestering a town, and a person had to be chosen to be sacrificed to the dragon. When the name of the princess was drawn, Saint George killed the dragon— saving the princess— and a rose grew out of the dragon’s blood. The Day of Sant Jordi (April 23) is also a prominent day in the world of books. It is known as World Book Day by UNESCO, and it is the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Miguel Cervantes, whose Don Quixote has been translated into more languages than any book other than the Bible, died one day before on April 22. Traditionally on the Day of Sant Jordi, males would receive a book and females would receive a rose. However, now females will usually receive a book and a rose (males will still typically only receive a book without a rose). Also on this day, Casa Batllo in Barcelona is usually decorated with massive amounts of roses.
Las Comparsas, La Merengada, Carnaval, and La Mona-
Also most of those celebrating it do not know why they are celebrating, the beginning of Lent and the Easter season are one of the biggest celebrations in Catalonia. For Las Comparsas, couples will link arms and dance throughout the city. While I was in Vilanova i la Geltru, Las Comparsas culminated in a fun, massive candy battle in one of the main city squares that left anyone who walked through La Plaça de la Vila with sticky shoes for days. In the same week in Vilanova i la Geltru, children from the town will take merengue and have a massive food fight in the
Plaça del Mercat. These will lead up to Carnaval, which many people spend the whole year preparing for by building floats, choreographing dances, and designing costumes. Usually they will go from town to town participating in parades on different days, one of the biggest taking place in Sitges. About six weeks later on the day after Easter, Catalonians celebrate by giving elaborate cakes— known as “La Mona”— to children. The cakes are usually chocolate with chocolate figures on top, and are usually given from godparents to their godchildren. On this “Dia de La Mona,” extended families will usually get together and share a big meal.
Festa Mayor and La Mercè-
Most small towns throughout Catalonia will each have a town festival, usually in the summer, known as Festa Mayor. The biggest of these is La Mercè, which is a multi-day festival with a firework finale on September 24. One of the highlights are the parades and dances of the “Gegants i capgrossos,” which are giant paper mache figures that are worn similar to the way someone wears a mascot costume. There will also be “Castells,” which are human towers that can go so high that sometimes there are double-digit people stacked on top of each other. Another main feature is the “correfoc,” or fire-run, where festival goers will run under the sparks and fireworks shot by dragon mascots and other costumed people with spinning, spark-shooting contraptions.
Calçotada and Food and Wine Festivals-
There are numerous food and wine festivals throughout the year in Catalonia that I have had the opportunity to attend, such as the Temp de Vi in Vilanova i la Geltru, the Cava Festival in Vilafranca, and the Tast a La Rambla, All Those Food Market, and Time to Eat Fest in Barcelona. One of the biggest food festivals I was able to enjoy is known as a “Calcotada.” Calcots are a Catalonian vegetable similar to a scallionor spring/green onion that are in season in the spring when the Calcotadas take place. The calcots are usually grilled and wrapped in newspaper (and sometimes roof tiles) to keep them warm, then peeled and dipped into a romesco sauce. They are usually accompanied by grilled meats like butifarra (a Catalan sausage), cava or “vino tinto,” and family and friends.
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