The fascinating Catalan Culture

Catalunya is located in Spain. It has a population of 7.5 million people. It is rich in culture and tradition, unique food, language, and special festive days. You might have heard something about Catalan culture before, but if you haven’t, these are some examples of the most common festive traditions that you should know.

Ken Cheung | Unsplash

Correfoc 

The “correfoc” is a game or show that takes place in the streets of cities and towns, where the goal is to avoid the pyrotechnics used by the “devils,” in Catalan we call them “Diables,” and the imaginary and mythological beings who are represented. It has its roots in the “Ball de diables” already documented in the twelfth century, but it was not until the twentieth that it took its current form. It is an event celebrated primarily in Catalonia, but it has also spread to the Valencian Country, the Balearic Islands, and the north of Catalonia. If you want to be part of the “colla de diables,” you need a certificate to use and enjoy pyrotechnics correctly.

The term “correfoc” arose in different parades of “Festes Majors” or popular celebrations of Catalonia, as an improvised manifestation of the people, dragons, and devils who acted running, jumping, and dancing together under the fire, with a traditional percussion rhythm. In the 80s and 90s, it spread across the geography of the Catalan countries.

Lucifer is the king of hell, the protector of hostile lands, and in the Ball De DIABLES, he is one of the most representative figures of the group. One of the curiosities of this figure is that it is usually a man. He is the one who usually starts the acts of fire, either with a speech or with the first bang. He usually has his dances alone and with the Diablessa (devil-wife). The “diablessa” is Lucifer’s wife. She has a unique outfit since she wears a skirt and a stem different from other devils.

The “bestiari de foc” is a group of figures, bodies, corporal, and artificial elements with a zoomorphic appearance that uses pyrotechnic devices. Generally, these fire beasts have fantastic features, with dragons being the most common. Today, though, we can see more imaginary figures that have something to do with the neighborhood, area, or association they belong to.

To be a good “diable,” you must pass a baptism of fire. This is usually done once a year. Lucifer, with his fork, lights the first-grade firework and makes a kind of “ritual” to introduce people from the children’s group to the adults’ group.

Castellers 

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“Castellers” (human towers in Catalan) is a Catalan tradition ongoing for more than 200 years. Different groups known as “colles castelleres” gather at local festive events, and they build human towers. 

There are many different types of “castells,” depending on the number of people participating and the levels that form the tower. Each tower has its unique name. For example, A building constructed by one person on each level is called “pilar,” or one with four people in each group is called “quatre.” 

The Castellers de Vilafranca set the world record for an enormous tower in 2012, where they traveled to New York to perform what was never seen before; 150 people tower with eight levels of four people. 

Different groups have different uniforms across Catalunya, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. All groups from other places gather and build the previously prepared tower. There is a lot of community and teamwork… That’s what makes it possible and so incredible!.

Gegants 

“Gegant” (giant in English) is a significant traditional popular human figure designed to participate in celebrations and public festivities. A hollow structure is carried by one or more people wearing a suit for the character they represent as they dance to the beat of a piece of music. Giants are usually representations of medieval tales and symbols, such as princesses, princes, kings, queens, but there can also be other types, such as peasants, mythological creatures, shepherds.

These characters usually go out on public holidays or on public holidays in the form of a parade to have a little party in the village. A parade is a festive event where several giant associations walk through the village with live music, usually drums, tambourines, “flabiol,” and “gralles.”

Ball de gitanes 

The “Ball de gitanes” (gypsy dance in English) is a traditional dance in Catalonia and Valencia that began around the 18th century. There are two types of dance, the one in the Vallès area and the one practiced in some towns in the Valencian Country and the other regions of Catalonia, especially Tarragona and the Penedès.

There are usually one or two rows of dancers in pairs. The castanets (“castanyoles” in Catalan) are also played (not in a flamenco way) to different types of songs. Each village has its distinctive tune, which they play.

Sardanes 

The Sardana is a very traditional type of dance in Catalonia. It is known for its particularities; people form a circle by holding their hands and pointing their feet in the middle by following the song’s rhythm. This typically takes place on local festive days, in the center of the town’s square, where people gather around and are free to join. 

The music they use for the sardanas is very distinctive; it is composed of some wind instruments called “la fabiola de gralla” and the “tamborí” (little drum).

Batucada or Txaranga

The batucada or txaranga is a percussion group that serves to animate and accompany a cercavila (street parade), a public event, races, and other types of performances and festivities. The difference between a batucada and a txaranga is that in the txaranga, you can also use wind instruments, such as saxophones, trumpets, trombones… while, in the batucada, it is only the percussion base, with drums of different sounds, from the Zurdo (which is the lowest drum) to the repinique (the highest).

As you can see, the Catalan culture is fascinating and very unique. If you ever go and visit Catalonia, you now know what to do!

Ferran Mortés McLellan
Laura Camps Muñoz

Source:
Sardana | Wikipedia

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