Surprising unusual Catalan Barcelona traditions
Catalonia is a region with a very important cultural heritage that you will not be tired of discovering during your stay… We think then of museums, architecture or even gastronomy, but do not forget especially the traditions that occupy a place of choice! Whether you have decided to visit the Catalan capital, Barcelona or any other part of the region, you will likely have the chance to attend one of them. Discover these surprising unusual Catalan Barcelona traditions during your stay; surely you won’t regret.
All these events occur close to our top-end apartments in central locations in Barcelona. So don’t miss the opportunity to book your holiday apartment in Barcelona with us to make the most of them.
- The dancing egg
- Tió Nadal
- L’home dels nassos
- La Festa de Sant Medir
- Castellers – Human Towers
- Falcon de Catalunya
- Ball de bastons
The dancing egg (20-23 June)
You will be surprised to see eggs on the fountains of Barcelona. That’s right, eggs! It is one of the oldest and most unusual traditions of Barcelona. This tradition has the name “L’ou com balla” or the dancing egg in Catalan and marks the celebration of Corpus Christi since 1637. The principle is simple but to say the least surprising: eggs are placed on the jets of the fountains in patios, gardens, cloisters …
For some, it is a metaphor of the circle of life or a reference to time and incessant movement. For others, it is simply a typical entertainment of the Middle Ages. The ou com balla shows us the magic of simplicity and became a symbol of the city during the Corpus Christi festival. For this occasion, the gardens are adorned with floral arrangements and cherries.
Do not be surprised to find dozens of eggs scattered over the fountains of all the districts of the Catalan capital.
Here the various spots where to enjoy the dancing eggs:
As part of the Corpus Christi festivities, the lobby, the staircase and the gothic gallery of the city hall will host the exhibition of the Seguici Popular de la Ciutat. It’ll take place from Thursday 20 to Saturday 22 from 10:00 AM to 08.00 PM to Sunday 23 June from 10:00 AM to 02.00 AM.
Gegants (Giants) and Bestiari (Beasts) occupies those spaces. All of them are elements of festive imagery with a certain historical tradition. Although some are truly more than 100-year old, others have been recovered during these last decades, from documentary sources.
Access to the exhibition
Also, there will also be processions on Sunday 23 June. See programme below:
- 18.30 in Plaça de Sant Jaume: Performances of Moixiganga Barcelona, Falcons de Barcelona and the dance of Barcelona’s Corpus Giants.
- 19.15 in Plaça de Sant Jaume: Departure of Seguici Popular parade – giants, beasts and dances- from the Town Council.
- 19:45: Departure of the festive procession. Route: av. de la Catedral, pl. Nova, c. dels Arcs, av. del Portal de l’Àngel, c. Comtal, via Laietana, c. de Joaquim Pou i av. de la Catedral
In short, it is a historic and original event not to be missed and whose popularity is not likely to diminish in Barcelona!
Every 8th December – Inmaculate Conception Day – Catalan families set Tió de Nadal or better known as Caga Tió (literally meaning “poo log”). What is it exactly? Well, it’s a log decorated with a smile, a red hat and a pair of legs. The tradition is to take great care of it covering it with a blanket for not getting cold and “feed” it every day until Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, the children hit it with a stick and ask it to defecate presents and sweet treats while singing. Here is an example of a common song:
Caga, tió / almonds and nougat / Do not poo herring / they are too salty/ poo nougats / they are better / Caga, tió / almonds and nougat / if you do not want to poo / I will give you the cane / Caga, tió!
Catalans have a peculiar fascination with faeces and you might have already noticed it with the previous tradition. Well, hold tight as there’s more on the way with the “Caganer”! The tradition of the shitting one (literal translation) dates back from the 17th or 18th century and comes under various appearances now. The figurine is hidden in the Nativity Scene and children have to find it.
It usually consists of a porcelain figurine of a man with a traditional peasant outfit (see picture). The character has its bum out and enjoys a pure relaxing natural moment (defecating in case you weren’t sure). You can now found politicians, football players or many famous real and fiction characters as the Caganer.
The Caganer has a symbolic meaning of bringing prosperity and good fortune along the year. It’s in no way seen as offensive, although it may be shocking when you see it for the first time in a shop window.
On the last day of the year, l’home dels nassos (the man with the noses) goes out for a walk around the city. The legend says that this man has as many noses as the year has days. Children are launched in their search, imagining a quirky character with 365 noses in his face without thinking that on December 31 and only one left. To continue with the joke, adults say they have just seen him go through a nearby street loaded with mocadors (handkerchiefs), with the intention of upsetting the children.
You can spot in the streets as a big-head festival character and hand out the key to the New Year to the authorities.
In Barcelona the tradition was to find the man at midday on December 31st in Plaza del Palau, in front of the Llotja. It would stand on a platform so that everyone could see him covering with dozen of sheets the 365 noses it was supposed to have all over the body, since they don’t fit on the face.
This festivity occurs in the district of Gràcia, Sarrià, Sant Gervasi and Sants every March 3rd. During the festival horses, carts and trucks forming a parade with musicians invade some streets of these neighbourhoods. Children line along these streets waiting for dozens of tonnes of sweets to be distributed. As soon as the 26 “colles” (parade groups) start tossing the sweets, hundreds of hysterical kids rush to grab as many as possible. Some people even hold an umbrella upside down to collect sweets in larger quantities before they touch the floor.
The legend started in 1828 because of a baker called Josep Vidal i Ganés. The latter fell ill and promised to make an annual pilgrimage to Sant Medir chapel located in the hills of Collserola if God could cure him. As he recovered, he would beat a drum and throw beans to announce his pilgrimage. Today, the beans have been replaced with sweets and hordes of children gather for the event.
One of the most impressive traditions of Catalonia is celebrated in Barcelona and in many other towns of the region, and we strongly recommend you not to miss it!
But what are the “Castellers”?
Literally, it means “human castles”. Yes, that’s correct! And here we speak of one of the most popular traditions of Catalonia and of which its inhabitants can be proud. True human towers are built, and they can be between 6 and 10 floors high. In order to “validate” the tower, the lighter child must complete the demonstration by raising the arm once s/he has climbed to the top of the “tower” to form a human tower. Each year, more people can join in to form it.
What are the origins of this tradition?
They come from the old “dances of the Valentinois” which took place during the religious processions in the 18th century. These dances ended in a figure constructed by humans. Since the Universal Exhibition in 1928, participants wear a traditional costume: a coloured shirt, white trousers, a black belt called Faixa and a square cotton scarf (Mocador Casteller).
Where and when to attend a performance?
There will also be performances in many other towns and villages in Catalonia. To consult the schedules and places in Catalonia, click here.
If you do not have the chance to be in the area this weekend do not panic! You can see these performances on many occasions: the patronal festivals of the towns (Festa Major), the festivals of the districts and, more generally, all kinds of Catalan popular festivals.
Similar to the castellers, the Falcon de Catalunya is similar to the “Sokol” towers of Czech Republic. It consists of building a triangular human tower made of fewer participants. You are more likely to see it during the Mercè festivites in late September.
If you hear banging noises during your visit in Barcelona, it is more likely that it comes from a Correfoc. You’re asking yourself: “What’s that?”. Correfoc means “Fire run” in Catalan and as it says it involves fire and… running. Every representation is a fight between good and evils characters. Hordes of devils called “Colles de diablos” stride along streets or squares and dance in the sound of drums, light fireworks set on pitchforks and drag enormous beasts along with them.
This tradition made a fierce come back more than 35 years ago after a long ban under Franco’s fascist regime and is deeply rooted into Catalan folklore. Nowadays, any local event is a reason to play with fire.
Would you dare jumping into the river of firework sparks and dancing with the devils? We would recommend you to wear protections just in case…
As part of the Catalan folklore , this dynamic dance is often seen during traditional Catalan festivals.
Equipped with one or two oak sticks, “ball de bastons” dancers stand in two rows opposite one another. They perform frantic choreographies with sticks slamming against each other while jumping and twirling.
The traditionally wear a completely white outfit with red or blue belts and bells strapped to their ankle. Their show is accompanied by a band made of tabor pipes or bagpipes.
Prohibited during Franco’s fascist regime, the sardana is a symbol of the Catalans’ identity and unity. Performers join hands in a circle and raise their arms as a proclamation of pride before making small hops to the music. The circle gets larger and larger to the rhythm of the band playing.
The best time to see it is on Saturday evenings outside Barcelona Gothic Cathedral.