This blog post was originally posted on March 4, 2016, and was updated on September 21, 2017.
Every region in Spain has traditions to call their own, and the traditions of Barcelona and Catalonia can sometimes be surprising!
While every place in the world—and especially in Spain—has its own traditions that might sometimes seem a bit odd to outsiders, it seems like here in Catalonia we really do have our fair share. While some are simpler—think folkloric dance and festivals—some of them definitely could also fall into the weird and wonderful variety. Read about the age-old and sometimes quirky traditions of Barcelona!
One of Barcelona and Catalonia’s most famous traditions involves a group of people, children included, climbing on top of each other to make human castles. Castellers, as they’re known, practice this official sport on any given weekend, holiday or festival throughout the year, and they can get up to eight, nine, even ten layers high! The most dazzling part? The small child who crawls to the top! Take a look at these terrific guys in action in the video below!
Listen up, pyromaniacs! Nobody loves fire quite like the Catalans do, and the correfoc, which literally translates to fire-run, is just that! They are a group of people dressed as devils, shooting off fireworks without abandon. This is one of the most exciting traditions of Barcelona and you can find them during neighborhood and city festivals.
Gegants, or giants, play an important role in Catalan tradition and folklore. Usually representing neighborhood characters like the butcher, baker or fisherman, the giants parade around during festivals and also many special city events. There are hundreds of different characters, each one belonging to a different district or neighborhood of the city, and their twirling dance will be sure to impress!
Along with the giants come the capsgrossos, which literally means big heads. Fitting, as these dolls have some seriously enormous heads! Used in the past to scare away small children, nowadays you will find that most kids don’t even blink an eye. Still, they tend to be a bit on the uglier side!
The caganer, which means crapper, is a special Christmas tradition that celebrates the most important character of the nativity scene but it’s not Jesus in this case! As families decorate their annual belén, the nativity scene, there is no figure as important as the peasant dropping his pants somewhere near the farm animals and other characters present that night. Find the caganer in celebrity form as well, from Barça players to politicians.
The poo-related Christmas traditions are not limited to the caganer! The cagatio, or crapping log, is a special, smiley log that children feed throughout the month of December. As Christmas approaches, they dance around him, hitting him with a stick and singing a song about his defecation of their Christmas treats. Did we mention quirky traditions of Barcelona?
No list of Barcelona traditions would be complete without a folkloric dance! While you can certainly catch a flamenco show around town, this is actually more typical of Andalusia in the south of Spain. The true, traditional Catalan dance is the sardana, a light, circular jig.
Some of the most important traditions of Barcelona involve the many festivals throughout the year. And La Merce, the celebration of Barcelona’s patron saint, is by far the grandest of them all. This week-long fiesta falls at the end of September. It combines many of the traditions listed above. The most impressive of it all? The city-wide correfoc, where hundreds of pyromaniacs unite for a three-hour fire parade.
Barcelona’s version of Valentine’s Day, Sant Jordi is a day of romance, and funnily enough, literature, as the city celebrates the legend of Saint George as well as the anniversary of the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes. Read all about this lovely day on our full post about celebrating La Diada de Sant Jordi in Barcelona.
La Nit de Sant Joan
Another wonderful festival in Barcelona is La Nit de Sant Joan, or Saint John’s Eve. The longest night of the year on June 24th is celebrated in Barcelona and all of Catalonia with bonfires, firecrackers and a lot of noise! Check out our suggestions about how to celebrate Sant Joan in Barcelona!