Your guide to all the great highlights of Catalonia’s Festivals.
In the Catalan Pyrenees festivals and fairs are a treasured tradition. Folklore of Catalonia is proudly displayed with spectacular shows and demonstrations, often in the form of dance, song, theatre, and fireworks.
Main characters in many festivals of the Catalonia Pyrenees are the ‘correfocs’ (devils), who are thought of as being more festive than evil. They dance around with fire-lit pitch forks to the rhythmic sound of beating drums and the gralla (traditional flute-like instrument), interacting with onlookers and lighting off fireworks.
Catalans are also famous for their Ball dels Gegants (the Dance of the Giants); people dressed in towering caricature costumes dancing in unison, the Ball de Gitanes (Gypsy Dance), the Sardanes and Ball de Bastons(Stick Dance), and the Castellers – Human Castles.
Here’s a list of Festival Highlights for the Catalan Pyrenees:
The Medieval Market of La Seu d’Urgell – Mercat Medieval dels Canonges
This year (2010), the market takes place on June 5th, and 6th.
La Seu has had a market in its streets for at least a thousand years. You’ll find regular markets every Tuesday and Saturday here. The medieval market is more like a fair, or festival and hosts all kinds of special stalls, craftsmen, performances and traditional, trade-related demonstrations.
You can taste medieval recipes at local restaurants of la Seu, watch street theatre; like jugglers, storytellers, circus and trapeze artists, and even falconry (birds of prey shows).
La Patum of Berga
This fascinating festival of Catalonia, celebrated during Corpus Christi, in the town of Berga, in the county of Alt Bergueda.
It’s been declared by UNESCO, to be a ‘Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage’, for it’s ancient processional dances, medieval theatrical performances, parades, fireworks and pyrotechnics.
La Patum’s celebrations come from Pagan rituals, passed down for generations. During this fantastic festival, the town of Berga ignites with energy, streets fill with thousands of party goers, who dance joyously in unison to the stirring sounds of heavy drums and medieval music.
The massive crowds wind through the old streets following parades of sprightly characters of Gegants (giants), monsters and correfocs'(devils.)
All kinds of amazing musical, theatrical and pyrotechnical performances can be enjoyed during this dramatic and electrifying festival.
La Patum of Berga is definitely one festival not to be missed if you’re in the area.
The Solsona Carnival
This ritualistic festival takes place during the week of Carnestoltes,just before Lent, for Carnival, in the town of Solsona, in El Solonès.
Carnival, in Solsana, like in almost all Spanish cities, returned in 1971 after having been banned for 40 years by the dictator Franco.
Solsona is famous for its long tradition of giant making (Gegantes), and giant parades. And, accordingly, this festivals main characters are its dancing Giants and folkloric characters.
There’s also a special donkey, a Carnival king, and the Carnival hymn, a two step dance, called ‘El Buffi.’
The party lasts 9 days and there are more than 40 events for all tastes and ages.
Solsona Carnival has been declared a festival of National Tourist Interest
The Raiers Festival of La Pobla de Segur- The Rafters’ Descent
This festival takes place on the first weekend in July, in La Pobla Segur, of the county Pallars Jussà.
It’s a celebration of the ancient trade of raft making in the Pyrenees mountains.
Centuries ago, in many areas of the Pyrenees, rafts made from logs were used to carry wood, goods, and even passengers down the Noguera Pallaresa river.
On Saturday, traditional techniques are used to construct the rafts, then on Sunday; starting from the Llania Dam, they descend the river to La Pobla de Segur.
The Trobada de Música Tradicional al Pallars (Traditional Music Gathering of Pallars), is celebrated at the same time as the Raiers Festival, which means, aside from all the rafting related activities, there’s also lots of other concerts, dances, and workshops.
On Saturday, there’s a big lunch where they serve typical dishes from El Pallars. And on Sunday, to end the festivities, more than a thousand people enjoy a meal on the banks of the river.
The Raiers Festival of La Pobla de Segur has also been declared a Traditional Festival of National Interest.
* Another ‘Rafters’ Descent’ Festival in the Catalan Pyrenees is the one celebrated in Coll de Nargó, in the county of Alt Urgell.
Similar events take place here but this festival is held on the third weekend in August, and goes down the river from Colps de Fígols to El Pont d’Espia.
The Falles of Isil
This festival, which coincides with summer solstice is held on St. Johns’ day (San Joan), on June 23rd in the little town of Isil, in Pallars Sobirà.
Ritual dances are the main star of this spectacular show, however the night actually begins high up on the mountain, with the lighting of torches in the dark night.
Preparations for the event begin a month ahead, with the young people gathering on Mount Airoto to search for pine branches and trunks from which to make the falles (trunk torches).
They remove their bark, cut them to size, drive in wedges of resinous wood to keep the cuts open. To ensure the falles burn well on the night of St. John, they continue through the month to pile up the torches in a dry, sunny place on the side of the mountain.
At around seven pm the fifty or so torch bearers of Isil, and other people from neighbouring villages, and other parts of Catalonia, carry the falles to Faro depression where they wait until it gets dark.
When it gets dark, the great torch in the main square of town is lit, and this then acts as a signal to light the torches at the top of the mountain.
The torch bearers begin their descent in a zigzag procession (meant to resemble a snake) of fire down the right-hand side of the mountain.
It can sometimes take more than an hour to come down, as there is no path on this part of the hill.
At one point along the journey, in a clearing close to the village, the torch bearers are met by some women who give them wine and coca (cake), and flowers.
Now the adult torch carriers meet up with children who are also carrying little torches. Then, all together, they walk to the cemetery, and on the gate they make a sign with one of their lit torches,
They all continue the procession towards the town square, but on the way through the village they must jump over a bonfire in each square.
When they finally reach the plaza mayor (main square), they pile their torches on the main torch to make a huge bonfire.
And then the dancing begins. First is the march of the torch bearers, next is the stick dance; in which dancers jump over sticks crossed on the ground, then it’s the Ball Pla (Plain Dance); which is for anyone who wants to join. And finally the Bolangera, in which the women begin to dance and invite the men to join them in the circle.
The night finishes with the orchestra playing songs and all kinds of dancing until early in the morning.
The Falles of Isil was declared a Traditional Festival of National Interest by the Spanish government.
Stick Dance – “Ball de Bastons”
This two day festival, in honor of Sant Per takes place in late June, in Malpàs, in the county of Alta Ribaforça.
The whole town gets involved with the festival, they move from one party to the next, enjoying all kinds of music and entertainment.
Then, on the second day, everything finishes up with the traditional “Ball de Bastons”, stick dance.
Fira de Sant Llorenç
The Sant Llorenç Fair takes place in late July or early August in Bellver de Cerdanya, of the county of La Cerdanya.
It’s a fair that features largely traditionally made food and products from the region.
At the same time, you can enjoy concerts of traditional Pyrenees music.
Don’t miss the Country Sausage Making Competition, known as the Concurs de Llonganisses de Pagès.
Saint Anthony’s Hotpot of La Seu d’Urgell
This food festival takes place on the day of Saint Anthony, January 20th, in La Seu d’Urgell, in Alt Urgell county.
On this winter day farmers cook and serve 5,000 helpings of “escudella,” a hearty mountain soup made from vegetables, pasta and meat.
Local celebrations include the “Tres Tombs” (Three Turns) and the “Pujada al Pal” (Climbing the Pole), other concerts and events are also held around town.
Fira de Sant Armengol
This is a fair of traditionally made cheeses of the Pyrenees, held on October 20th and 21st in La Seu d’Urgell, of Alt Urgell county.
30 cheese makers from Catalonia, Navarra, The Basque Country and France gather to give workshops, show and sell their wares.
The Fira de Sant Armengol is also associated with a Nordic Skiing fair.
The Festa del Cep (Penny Bun Mushroom Festival)
This traditional craft market and festival is held on November 4th in the Alt Ribagorça town of Vilaller.
You can try local mushrooms mixed into traditional dishes of the area. There’s also a market and mushroom competition.
Catalonia Pyrenees County and Village Guide: