All posts filed under: tradition and holiday

Paschal week, Easter – processions on the Costa-Brava

Eastern on the Costa-Brava

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church decided it was about time to give an impressing lesson about the Sufferings of Christ. Well-known artists were told to manufacture wooden figurines and they dressed them in noble silks and carried them down the streets in long processions. The original idea, heavily influenced by the inquisition, was to bring those that had gone astray back to the Church.

The Spanish Holy Week, also known as Semana Santa, is a religious folk festival these days. It starts with Palm Sunday and ends Saturday night, before Easter Sunday. Pagan rites for welcoming spring, Christian grief about the Sufferings of Christ and mere happiness about his resurrection are all intertwined in processions and impressing festivals. The nearest spectacles are taking place in Girona, Verges, Sant Climent Sescebes and Castelló d’Empúries.

Easter procession in Girona

Eastern Procession in Girona - Jesus on the crossEaster processions have been a tradition in Girona ever since 1566. Starting close to the cathedral on Good Friday at 10pm it continues all through the Old Town. Suffering and Death, accompanied with disharmonic music, have something to them that reminds the spectator of Verdi’s The Power of Fate.All penitents are traditionally clad in hooded cloaks with tiny peepholes for the eyes. Thus, nobody can be recognized and anonymity is guaranteed since penance is a private affair.  There are a number of different fraternities and they can be told apart by the different colours of their cloaks. Some pennants are also carrying big crosses made of wood and richly adorned altars. Standing on the latter, there are life-size figurines of Saints and different sceneries re-enacting the Sufferings of Christ, which are called Pasos procesionales. Manager or manufacturer, this day, it makes no difference. There is mystic, there is religion and there is mere happiness. Being part of a fraternity (confraries) is usually inherited and considered a great honour. In Girona, the Easter Processions have little in common with the dark and gloomy procession they used to be in the Middle Ages; they are indeed more of a Baroque folk festival. In splendid colours and adorned with flowers, beautifully carved Madonna has a special appearance as a light in the darkness.Girona on Eastern - Madonna She is a virgin, a goddess, a heavenly beautiful creature and wherever she goes, she is met by rejoicing and enthusiasm. In a flurry of flashbulbs, she is the queen of Easter Night, surrounded by intoxicating whiffs of olibanum. Paso de Christo passes her by, swaying, his face a mask of suffering patience. The mystic scenery, the beautiful Old Town of Girona  – it truly is a feast for the senses. All the little cafes are open far into the night and all pubs and restaurants will not close until the early morning. There are friends and acquaintances, and everyone is in high spirits.

Dance of Dead in Verges

Verges is quite different. The tiny, medieval town between Figueres and La Bisbal is hosting the Dance of Dead on Maundy Thursday, at midnight. (www.laprocesso.cat). The event is a rather interesting relict of medieval liturgies and each year, more and more spectators come to take part.
It all begins at 10pm on theThe Dance of dance in Verges market place, where the Sufferings of Christ are re-enacted. Then, at midnight, people gather for a procession through the village. Lead by people dressed as skeletons, the procession moves through Verges’ narrow, winding alleys. The slightly bizarre spectacle, accompanied by drums, is known to be one of the oldest manifestations of Christian art. Candles, with wax dropping from their top, mark the way. The dull sound of drums, the eerie rattling of chains, the sound of whip lashes – and the many, many spectators are what makes the spectacle worth a visit. The town’s medieval atmosphere adds to the dramatic air. Just as in Girona, all pubs are open all night long too. The town is vibrant with anticipation.

The Sufferings of Christ in Sant Climent Sescebes

Easter - The Sufferings of christ in Sant Climent SescebesIn Sant Climent Sescebes, a town at the Pyrenees’ foothills, the Sufferings of Christ are re-enacted on several evening during the Paschal Week. Love. Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Hope! What sounds like a Hollywood movie really is deeply religious. “La Passio” in Sant Climent Sescebes is known for having the village’s inhabitants taking the lead part. Ever since the 1970ies they have put Jesus’ story on stage. How he came to Jerusalem, how he had the Last Supper, how he was betrayed, condemned and crucified. And how he was resurrected.  Those living pictures appear like historical paintings as they tell the stories of the New Testament, accompanied by music. It is a highly emotional way to remind people of why we still celebrate Easter, even today. On Easter Sunday, there is a Jewish Market in the winding alleys of Sant Climent Sescebes and there is food and drink galore.

The last days of Jesus life in Castelló d’Empúries

Castello de Empuries easternThe last days of Jesus life were full of emotional scenes, especially on his way to the cross. Generations of artists have been inspired by the story of the New Testament and left us plenty of masterpieces. Some of them can be found around the basilica Santa Maria de la Candelera in Castelló d’Empúries – especially stone sculptures. This Easter the stones get alive: under torchlight gather some Roman soldiers, disciples, Maria and Jesus and suddenly the wheel of history has been turned back: we find ourselves in first century, few hours before the God’s son on Earth will die.

Generally speaking, Easter Sunday is a family holiday in Spain. Every­body meets up for a feast. Happy Easter!

Christmas in Catalonia

They say: “You should celebrate the festivals whenever they are!” Good, that there are numerous celebrations around New Year. First of all: Christmas.

In Catalonia they attach importance to spend the time with the family. On the 24th of December they are having a copious dinner and clink glasses with Cava. Seafood, poultry, precious ham cheese and smoked salmon are probably the most popular elements of Christmas dinner.

An old tradition is to wear at least one new garment on Christmas Eve. This pledges luck for the next year. The old custom turned into buying a complete new outfit for Christmas Eve, wherewith the boutiques are not unhappy.

The living cots

Another highlight are the living cots, which can be seen in many mediaeval villages right before Christmas. The authentic coulisse is perfectly staged by the inhabitants.

The whole village participates in the festival, to move their town into the Palestine of 2000 years ago. The most popular “Pessebre vivent” takes place in Báscara. But also the one in Pals belongs to the most beautiful cots. It´s not just Jesus with his parents and the three Magi you can marvel at. In the whole village craftsmen, chandlers, farmers and jugglers do their work as if they lived 2000 years ago. Everything is feastfully enlightened. The former life on market and in villages is impressively displayed. Bread is baked, flax is yarned, there are smiths, cooks and everybody celebrates. The most important biblical story can be witnessed here. The celebration attracts more and more people every year.

Christmas in Catalonia

In Catalonia the “Tío de Nadal”

In Catalonia the “Tío de Nadal” might seem the most exotic tradition. “Tío” is the catalan name for a burning stump, which warmed the houses in former times. Then, it was a denotative present. Although most houses do not have a fireplace in their house anymore, many catalan families take a stump in the christmas time and adorn it with a red nose, a coat and a cap. From the 8th of December (Día de la puríssima) on, the children feed him with pumkins, potatoes and vegetables. On Christmasday the “Caga Tío” lets presents fall out of his behind: sweets and toys – sometimes also a bottle of champagne for the adults. If finally just onions and garlic appears the stomach of the “Tío” is completely empty.

After the Christmassy holidays there´s just small time to relax. Few days later the “Feliz ano Nuevo!” has to be celebrated. Of course the culinary side is the most important for the Catalans. On the verge of New Years Eve they have dinner with family and friends. A tradition for this occasion is to eat twelve grapes in the last twelve secconds of the year. It promises luck for every month of the following year. Different to other countries, the spanish people do not enkindle firework, but play parlour games and dance until the small hours.

Optic control

On the day of the three Magi the waiting for presents finally ends for the children. The three kings from the Orient arrive by camel, train or boat in every town in the evening of the 5th january. To present a dignified greeting, music is played and you join the three Magi on their proces­sion through the town. In glad expectation the children wonder if the three might have received their list of wishes?! In Girona one can find the most magnificent procession. But also in Roses and L´Estartit the three Magi wander around and give sweets to the children.

An old custom is it to eat a cake on the 6th of january, wherein a small figur of a king and a hard bean is. The one who has the figure in his piece might be the king for one day. The one who´s got the bean has to pay for the cake.

By January 8th, however, everyone finally returns to everyday life – until then, we wish you all the best for the festive season!

Living history – Pessebre vivent in Pals

„Silent night! Holy night!
All’s asleep, one sole light,
Just the faithful and holy pair,
Lovely boy-child with curly hair,
|: Sleep in heavenly peace!“

Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), 1816

While families now start to decorate their Christmas cribs with little wooden figures, a shining Star of Bethlehem and mini sheep, some villages in Catalonia have already been preparing one single nativity scene since almost a year – without wooden figures. We are speaking of the “pesebres vivientes” – “living cribs”. The inhabitants dress up like the people 2,000 years ago and transform the entire village into an enormous living crib.

Bàscara

Scene from PalsThe most famous pesebre takes place since 1973 at Bàscara (near Figueres). Under the most beautiful, however, also figures the one at Pals, which this year celebrates its 20th birthday. 1987 a group of enthusiastic
young people organised the first living nativity scene. Encouraged by their success they created the base for a bigger spectacle, which
nowadays attracts almost 10,000 visitors every year. More than 300 actors, organisers and technicians turn the picturesque medieval town centre into the perfect scenery for the Christmas event.

Palus

Ambient in PalsAlready in 9th century the location of “Palus” was mentioned in the chronicles. In those times the village was situated on top of a hill surrounded by marshes. Its impressive walls had been erected in 13th century, as well as the “Torre de les hores”, which now is the town’s emblem. In the torch-light between ancient buildings we feel moved to the 2,000-year-old Palestine. Angels in the olive trees. Joseph and Maria are cradling little Jesus. The Three Kings have arrived and bring precious gifts. In the alley people are spinning flax, baking bread, forging, cobbling, sewing and cooking. Chicken gaggling. Gooses babbling. Horses whinnying. Like the other visitors we move towards the Holy Family, totally enchanted by the hustle and bustle – which has nothing to do with the normal Christmas stress of 21st century. History and tradition, legend and myth, opulence and poverty, humans and animals, men and women, kings and vassals, commerce and religion – Pals makes us part of the greatest history of occident.
If you want to enjoy Pals and its wonderful surroundings for some days longer, we recommend you Mas Salvi, an exclusive hotel surrounded by woods and Mediterranean grassland. The charmingly restored 17th century manor house offers 22 suites with own terrace and direct access to the garden. For New Year’s Eve a big party with gala dinner and live music will be celebrated in the hotel-own restaurant. Get more information on www.massalvi.com.

Palafrugell / Llofriu: Cork!

Tradition in Catalonia

The processing of cork has a long tradition in Catalonia. Since the seccond century cork has been gathered, cut and processed here. Shoes, wallpaper, material for fishery and bottle caps were made from the robust material.

In the beginning of the 20th century more than 13.000 workers were employed in 615 factories. Today is leading in the production of bottle caps. Europe-wide Catalonia is, after Portugal and Andalusia, tertiary in the fabrication of cork. From time immemorial the cork- oak trees grow on 42.000 hectare land. The Catalans await a comprehensive harvest this season. Between June and September the bulky oak trees can be peeled. The centre of cork-industry of Catalonia is Palafrugell. Here is also a museum of cork.

Llofriu – Festa de la Pela del Suro

Cork workerThe traditional festival of corc, Festa de la Pela del Suro, is taking place Saturday before Saint Joan’s Day. All around the church, visitors are invited to watch the craftsmen as they go about their business. Right in time for breakfast, citizens and guests meet up in a small forest of cork oaks. This is where the cork will be peeled later on. We highly recommend the museum of cork in Palafrugell to all those who would like to find out more about cork.

The architecture of the building surprises with simple, strict lines. It was build by an architect from Girona named Emili Blanch i Roig between 1931 and 1934 and was originally a vocational school. On two floors you can experience all about cork.

You start the circular walk in the left hall. Pictures, informative material and aparats explain simple and practically what cork is and how cork is extracted from the the oak trees.

making corks for the winebottles

After forty years you gather the bark for the first time to make bottle caps out of it. Thenceforward the oak trees can be peeled every nine to twelve years. The trees can achieve 150 – 200 years. That means they will be peeled about sixteen times.

300 kg bottle caps can be produced from one tonne of cork. The rest will be used in the Industry.

On a guided tour through the museum you get to know more about the history of cork and some anecdotes from the world of cork-processing.

www.museudelsuro.org