Catalonia is a place with a very rich and diverse culture, and with century-old traditions that are unique in the world. In this post, we want to share some of them with you and explain their meanings, so that when you visit Barcelona you know everything there is to know about its impressive culture.
Often the highlight of Catalan (and Balearic) festivals, the correfoc harks back to medieval times. Correfoc literally means “fire run” and it’s basically a firework display in which fireworks explode at street level, instead of being fired into the air. It’s really not for the faint-hearted, but both grown-ups and children love it in Catalonia.
Symbolically, the correfoc represents the battle between good and evil. The Colles de diables, or “groups of devils”, dance to the rhythm of drums, push giant model beasts through the streets, and light fireworks on pitchforks. The devil dancers then weave through the crowd, spewing a shower of sparks everywhere.
Banned for over 30 years under Franco’s dictatorship, the correfoc tradition was reborn in 1979 and is now attended by thousands each year during Barcelona’s Mercè festival, as well as many other festivals throughout Catalonia.
One of the most jaw-dropping of all Catalan traditions (and there are quite a few) and the most iconic is the castellers (human towers). First performed in 1712, the tradition has become a staple of Catalan identity, and a feature of Catalan festivals. Today, any town, or district within Barcelona, has its own castellers team. These teams compete to see who can get the highest and best formed human tower, and they are called colles castelleres.
For a tower of any formation to be considered completed, a small child must climb to the top, raise one arm and hold up four fingers (to represent the four stripes of the Catalan flag). These children are usually around 5 years old and they’re called enxaneta. This impressive act of teamwork extends right down to the pinya, the crowd of people below acting as a base, who also act as a safety net in case the tower collapses.
Originally from the north of Catalonia, the sardana dance is an important symbol of Catalonia’s traditions, unity, and pride. Dancers join hands in a circle with their arms raised as they make precise steps to the music. As the small brass band plays, the circle becomes larger and larger. Movements are very controlled and dancers wear expressions of extreme concentration on their face, as it is a very difficult dance.
The sardana is yet another tradition that was banned under Franco’s regime, and while it’s very different from some other Spanish popular dances, such as Flamenco, it’s very charming, and most importantly, the dance emphasizes Catalan tradition and culture. Like the castellers, it symbolizes values of community and co-operation.
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