Carnestoltes or the Catalan Carnival

Counting 40 days back from Palm Sunday, it occurs that next Thursday February 4th is Dijous Gras (Fat Sunday) the kick off day for Carnival celebrations. In Catalonia, the celebrations take place from Thursday to Wednesday, a week full of party and tradition.

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Dijous Gras

Fat Sunday in Catalonia is linked to gastronomy and the traditional meals of the day have to do with pork meat and omelettes, being the Botifarra d’Ou (Egg Sausage) the protagonist of the day. Traditionally, Carnival was a relief from the winter food shortage and people celebrated it with fatty meals. Thus, another typical food od Fat Sunday in Catalonia is Coca de Llardons (Lard Pancake).

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Rei Carnestoltes

Friday after Dijous Gras is the first day of Carnival events. In Catalonia, the main character of Carnestoltes (Catalan name for Carnival) is King Carnestoltes. He is a fictional character who presides over all the Carnaval events and he arrives on Friday (or Saturday). His personality and outfit symbolize the debauchery and transgression typical of Carnival. He is shameless and acts crazyly and mockingly. But, at the end of the Carnival cycle, on Tuesday, he will be judged for his bad behavior and sentenced to death. He will be burnt publicly in a bonfire.

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Street Parades

The weekend is the time for the real fun of Carnival. They start on Friday, when the children from schools go to the streets and parade to show off their fancy dresses. Saturday night is time for the adults celebrations and on Sunday afternoons, everyone joins in the street parades. Every town or village have their particular traditions and liturgies. In Barcelona, for example, the tradition was the to have a Battle of Oranges. Nowadays, the real oranges are replaced by orange confetti.

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Dimecres de Cendra

On Tuesday, King Carnestoltes is judged and burnt and that is, unfortunately, the end of the celebrations. People have to go back to normality and, to mourn the end of the festivities, we celebrate Ash Wednesday, also known as the Enterrament de la Sardina (Sardine’s Buring). This is the last ritual of Carnival. Along with the burial of King Carnestoltes, the tradition includes the burial of the Sardine. A last parade then takes place, with people dressed as in a funeral, carrying a huge Sardine, crying desperately to the end of Carnival in a satirical, mocking and exaggerated performance.

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Well, this is the tradition, with events organized mainly for families and children which take place during the weekend in every town in Catalonia, but around Barcelona, the most popular celebration is the Sitges Carnival. This sea town is well-known for having the most spectacular Carnival parades which congregates thousands of people on Saturday night.


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