Page ContentA Background to Carnival in Barcelona and Catalunya.
Throughout the world, Ash Wednesday is a date known by Christians to fall forty working days before Easter Sunday. It symbolises the start of Lent - a period of forty days in the run up to Easter in which Christians have traditionally shown abstinence from their vices, whatever they may be.
Since I was a small girl Lent has always been the only forty days of the year when I have not consumed chocolate daily with an impressive dedication. Therefore, the day before Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday, is my last opportunity to munch down as many high quality cocoa solids as humanly possible before the fast begins!
This is the whole idea of the Barcelona Carnival, Mardi Gras or Carnestoltes - whatever you may choose to call it. It is one last blowout party before the period of suffering and will-power (or lack of it) begins.
In the UK this is celebrated by clearing out the pantry of all things tasty and making pancakes. In Spain it is celebrated, of course, with a fiesta!
The week of the celebrations is marked by 'Fat Thursday' ('Jueves Lardero') 12 February and ends on Ash Wednesday the following week 18 February with a traditional ceremony in which sardines are buried to symbolise the beginning of the fast.
Depending on the town or city, different places have their major party on different days (see below for more details). However, there is often a large street parade known as the Gran Rua de Carnival on the Saturday of the celebrations.
It is worth noting that Carnival is a particularly exciting time in Catalunya as celebrations were banned under the rule of Franco. So, since the end of his dictatorship in 1980 people have been making up for all of those years without a carnival.
Carnival in Barcelona: Dates, Times and Locations
Barcelona's carnival is often said to be eclipsed by other fiestas during this period. Therefore, those who plan on really experiencing the fiesta may wish to make a train journey to somewhere out of town.
However, celebrations will still be taking place in Barcelona city centre.The main event involves floats, dancers, costumes and music in a procession through the street.
If you are in Barcelona during carnival period it is also worth keeping an eye out for more local celebrations. As is often the case with fiestas in Barcelona, events are organised locally by the barrios (neighbourhoods). Also, due to the fact that much of the celebrations surround food, many markets organise tortilla-making competitions. They also decorate the market areas.
Carnival in Sitges: Dates, Times and Locations
Sitges is often called the gay capital of Europe. Therefore, it is well qualified to throw one of the largest parties during a fiesta famed for sequins, feathers and fun. Despite the fact that it is often called the 'Gay Carnival', straights and gays alike will enjoy the debauchery and fun.
A character called the Carnival King often leads carnival celebrations. This character arrives on the Thursday ( 12 February) and marks the beginning of the festivities. On the following Wednesday ( 18 February) a large procession takes place in which the Carnival King is killed - symbolising the end to the fun. This is a particularly lavish spectacle in Sitges, where glamorous widows and drag queens dressed in black come to mourn the death of the party.