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In the Catalan towns of Bagà and Sant Julià de Cerdanyola, situated in the Natural Park of Cadí-Moixeró, December 24 doesn't mean the arrival of Father Christmas. Instead, to mark the longest night of the year, the two municipalities come together to celebrate the ancient festival of Fia-Faia. Declared by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2015, this pre-Christian tradition starts with the lighting of a bonfire up in the mountains in a spot that's visible from below. Torches made from a plant thought to have cleansing properties are lit from the bonfire and carried down to the two towns, creating a beautiful river of flame. Later in the evening, all the torches are left to burn in the centre of each town, and a poetic line is recited: 'Fia-faia, que nostro Senyor ha nascut a la paia' – 'Fia-faia, our Lord has been born on straw'.
The festive 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, City Hall and the Reial Monestir 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?
Greet 2019 by celebrating New Year's Eve in Barcelona. For the past few years, crowds have gathered at in Plaça d'Espanya, along Avinguda Reina Maria Cristina, and at the foot of Montjuïc. This is the venue for Barcelona's biggest celebration with a spectacular firework display, music and live performances.
And after joining in the local tradition of eating 12 grapes before the 12 strokes of midnight come to an end, you will find many venues perfect for spending the first hours of the new year. You can go to great clubs like the Razzmatazz or Sala Apolo, which organise parties until daybreak on January 1, or you can enjoy the celebrations laid on at Poble Espanyol, which are very popular with young people. You can also go to restaurants or flamenco clubs, which usually offer an evening full of entertainment with meals, music and dancing all included.
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