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Following the Catalan tradition of stands devoted to the Christmas holidays, the fair of the Sagrada Família offers many types of complements, from figures and accessories for the traditional nativity scenes to Christmas trees and various decorations. The handicrafts from different countries and by different artists also stand out. The festive atmosphere around this characteristic area of Barcelona is complemented with stands of craft foods such as torrons, cheeses, cold meats, sweets and chestnuts. This year la Fira will take place with all the health and social-distancing measures in place to guarantee the maximum safety at all its venues.
La Castanyada is a traditional festival that is deeply rooted in Catalonia and celebrated on 1st November, All Saint's Day. People eat chestnuts – castanyes in Catalan –, panellets - small balls of almond paste coated in pine nuts –, sweet potatoes and other autumnal produce. You can make panellets at home or buy them in the pastry shops and bakeries of Barcelona.
This public holiday is celebrated with family, friends and even in schools. It is often accompanied by chestnuts and panellets (traditional marzipan cookies) served with sweet dessert wine. Around the time of this celebration, specialist vendors take to the streets to sell their hot freshly-roasted chestnuts.
The Castanyada (Chestnut Festival) and All Saints Day indicate that summer is over and that colder weather is on the way.
One of Catalonia's most famous traditions is that of the "castells" (castles), which are human towers that are lifted by building different levels of people until reaching insane heights that can go up to ten stories. There is no mechanical help, and tens and even hundreds of people can take part in it. The "castellers" are the people who carry out this activity, which is over 200 years old.
Acknowledged as Immaterial Cultural Heritage by Unesco, his origin is believed to be around the area of Tarragona, Catalonia's second most important province after Barcelona. During the 20th Century this practice spread all over Catalonia. The "castellers" are grouped in "colles" that normally take the name of its place of origin.
A large area, totally free of traffic, with different places to explore, most of them in the open air. That's the Poble Espanyol de Barcelona, an iconic visitor attraction in the heart of Montjuïc. Every weekend, there's a different activity: theatre, dance, music, magic, treasure hunts, etc. Throughout the year there are loads of activities to ensure you have a great day out with the family: Carnival, a Giants' Parade, a Puppet Festival, the Click and Go Fair, the Main Festival, the Medieval Fair, Christmas at the Poble, Halloween... and many more surprises!. In short, a wide range of activities for all the family.
On Christmas Day, for more than 100 years, takes place this event organized by the Club Natació Barcelona. The competition, the oldest in the entire Spanish territory, is a 200 meters open water swimming race across the Port of Barcelona.
Who mentioned cold? In Barcelona there is no need to wait for summer to have a dip in the sea on the San Sebastian beach: the date is on 1 January at 12 noon. The event is organised by the Club Natació Atlètic Barceloneta. All who dares to participate will be a diploma to prove their boldness. Are you up for it?
Of all the memorable Catalan traditions, which include 'fire runs' and dancing 'giants', it's arguably the human towers that have the most impact on those watching them. To enjoy a true festival of these castells, head to Vilafranca de Penedès for its annual festa major, from the 29th August to the 2nd September, which commemorates the town's patron Sant Fèlix.
The casteller groups that have more participated in the San Félix Day, August 30, have been els Xiquets de Valls (currently, the Colla Vella and the Colla Joves), the Castellers de Vilafranca and the Minyons de Terrassa. Even so, also has participated els Nens del Vendrell, Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona, els Xicots de Vilafranca, among others. Each human tower is an exemplary example of team work, from the crowd forming the supporting pinya at the bottom via the columns formed as each level rises and culminating with the youngest members of the crew scampering right to the very top to crown the construction, which is officially completed once the smallest of all (l'enxaneta) raises his or her hand. Cue thunderous applause.
The Christmas season in Barcelona is special for many reasons. Firstly there are the traditional elements, like the Christmas markets, particularly the Santa Llúcia one by the cathedral, which has been held since 1786 and is where local families go to buy figures for their cribs. Talking of which, pessebres (which is what cribs are called in Catalan) can be seen in places around the city including Plaça Sant Jaume, Frederic Marès Museum and the Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes. And pessebres vivents ('living nativity scenes') feature real people (and animals) acting out the Christmas story – if the chance comes up to see one, for example at Poble Espanyol, don't miss it.
On a more modern note, Barcelona is conscious of the need to be environmentally aware at this time of year, and Plaça Catalunya hosts a fair promoting responsible consumption, as well as fun and games for all ages. As the glittering lights brighten the streets at night, why not feast on some roasted chestnuts from one of the stalls around town before enjoying a concert of Christmas music?
This is one of the most keenly anticipated and widely celebrated Catalan public holidays. According to the traditional tale, Sant Jordi (Saint George) killed the dragon that used to live in Montblanc where it terrorized the local population, thus saving the king's daughter from certain death. Legend has it that a beautiful rose bush sprang up in the spot where the dragon's blood was spilled. From the 18th century onward, the Sant Jordi festival became widely identified as a Catalan 'fiesta' which these days arouses great popular, civic and cultural passion. On Sant Jordi's Day, lovers exchange a rose and a book and every town and city in Catalonia is filled with stalls set up to sell both. The center of Barcelona becomes just one big open-air bookshop where you can find everything from the latest publications to renowned writers signing copies of their work.
Enjoy Catalan festival in the different neighborhoods and streets of the city!
The areas of the Pre-Pyrenees and the Pyrenees hold a festival of fire in summer which has been declared as intangible UNESCO cultural Heritage. It involves local people descending with large burning torches (fallas) from the top of the mountain to the village at nightfall. A tradition with rural origins, this ritual is associated with the purification of the fields and woods in order to protect them from evil spirits. This festival has become a magic and light-filled event with mystical connotations featuring a primal light procession. The handmade torches are prepared by people in the village and some can weigh as much as 20 kilograms. Two towns in the area also celebrate this festival on Christmas Eve: Bagà and Sant Julià de Cerdanyola, and on this occasion the tradition is called "Fia-Faia".
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