Sants Festival, how to become one of the locals
In summer, from June to September, Barcelona's former villages host their neighbourhood festivals. They are the perfect excuse to visit the city and lose yourself in its districts that are dressed up to the nines. The most famous is the Gràcia Festival, which is visited by thousands of people every year. The Sants Festival may be less well known around the world although it isn't much different from the one in Gràcia as far as events and concerts are concerned. It keeps alive the spirit of a major festival that used to be held in honour of Saint Bartholomew, the patron saint of the former village of Sants.
Legend has it that Saint Bartholomew was flayed and this is certainly why he is the patron saint of people who work with leather, such as tanners. The first recorded mention of the Sants Festival dates to the middle of the 19th century, when the locals organised dances such as the Serrallonga, or the stick dance, the ball de bastons, in which the dancers banged sticks together, as well as the ball de Sant Bartomeu, which involved people dressed as Roman soldiers, two angels and a devil who carried an object and pretended to hit the assembled crowd with it.
The entire neighbourhood throws itself wholeheartedly into the celebrations. The local residents deck out the streets and squares with all kinds of original decorations based on specific themes. In the past, the streets have been transformed into a pirate ship, a Disney film, and a sea full of fish… in Sants there's no limit to the imagination. Local associations promote popular culture with their "gegants" (giant figures controlled by people inside), "castellers" (human towers), "diables" (people dressed up as devils who set off fireworks and crackers in a spectacular procession), dances, street parties and dinners, concerts, fairs and children's workshops. That's why all the locals flock to Sants on 24th August so they don't miss it:
The first "traca"
Don't be alarmed if you hear firecrackers going off early in the morning. It's only the Sants Festival greeting the dawn with a lot of noise to make sure nobody in the neighbourhood misses what's about to happen.
Procession and dance of the giants
After leaving the floral tribute to Saint Bartholomew at the church of Santa Maria, the Castellers de Sants build a tower in honour of their patron saint. Afterwards, the "Banda de Música del Triangle", the "Tabalers de Sants" and the "Colla de Geganters de Sants" go on a procession through the neighbourhood as far as the Parc de la Espanya Industrial. If you really want to get into the party spirit, don't miss the start of the celebrations.
A classic event organised by the "Castellers de Sants", together with the stick dancers, the bastoners, and devils, the diables. This is a treasure hunt that combines elements of the neighbourhood's popular culture. The event consists of a procession of stick dancers, followed by a human tower and a display of drumming known as a "tamborrada". The perfect way to immerse yourself in popular culture and become one of the locals.
The main streets in the neighbourhood are decorated on different themes and the local residents dedicate all their efforts to ensuring their street is the most original and eye-catching during the festival so they can carry off the prize awarded on the last day. If you happen to be staying on one of the decorated streets, you're bound to want it to win.
There are "correfocs" and "correfocs", but the one in Sants is special. The neighbourhood has four groups of devils, colles de diables, and that's why the correfoc lasts all day. The locals mingle with people dressed up as devils and demons who run through the streets, dancing and jumping between fireworks and crackers in a thrilling procession. There are activities that cater to children in the morning, more people come out in the afternoon, and at night, the grown-up "devils" pull out all the stops to see out the festival in style. We recommend you go dressed for the occasion and wear old clothes so you're ready to jump in among the "devils" and their fireworks.
Night falls with a whole host of concerts and a tasty array of food. You'll have to check the programme of events to see what's on. Although now you're one of the locals you might not need to.
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