Catalan Traditions explained, Part 2

Tió de Nadal

The Tió de Nadal seems to bemuse foreigners as well as a good few Catalans. Starting on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception (Dec ember the 8th), a wood log called the Tió de Nadal is set up with legs, a smiling face, and a red hat. It is common to see his smiling face in window displays in the run up to Christmas. The Tió de Nadal is more commonly nicknamed the ‘caga tió’ (loosely translated into English as ‘poo uncle/guy’)!

In the run up to Christmas, families cover the Tió with a blanket, and feed him every night. The idea is that if the children take good care of their log he will return the kindness and eventually poo out festive presents for them.

Then on Christmas Day itself, children sit on or near their log, beat him with a stick and sing the Caga Tió song. There are many variations but the main gist of the lyrics is as follows: “Caga tió, hazelnuts and nougat / If you don’t want to poo / We will hit you with a stick”.

After singing the verses, the kids are then sent out of the room while the grownups hide presents under the Tió´s blanket and return to find out what their beaten log has gifted them.

The Caga Tió tradition is entirely unique to Catalunya and doesn´t take place in other parts of Spain.

La Festa de Sant Medir

If you were in Gràcia neighbourhood earlier this month, you may have witnessed the sight of some sixty tonnes of boiled sweets being thrown by horse riders to the excited children lining Gran de Grácia and Calle de San Salvador.

This was not a one-off event but an annual festival that takes place on March the 3rd. Also known as Barcelona’s sweet festival, more than 26 parade groups, called ‘colles’ form a procession that ends in the Gràcia gardens.

Legend has it that this parade started in 1828 when a baker named Josep Vidal i Ganés became ill and vowed to make an annual pilgrimage to Sant Medir chapel if God cured him. As luck would have it the baker was cured and to mark the day, in subsequent years would beat a drum and throw beans to announce his pilgrimage ever March the 3rd. Today, the beans have been replaced with sweets in this festival that celebrates the saint who saved the baker.

L’ou com balla

L’ou com balla is a specifically Barcelones tradition. On Corpus Christi, sixty days after Easter Sunday, locals celebrate the fun tradition of L’ou com balla or ‘the dancing egg’.

On this day, church fountains all across Barcelona are lavishly decorated with flowers, and an egg is balanced on top the stream of water, where it does its dance. The egg is a symbol of both rebirth and Holy Communion.

Strangely, no one knows how this tradition came about, but the most widely accepted start date is 1637, at the Seu, Barcelona´s Cathedral. Today, locals flock to the Seu or to other city churches to witness the egg dance.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An interactive map of Barcelona’s history

The Museu de Barcelona (MUHBA) has just launched an exciting new online tool visually mapping how the Catalan capital has evolved over almost 22 centuries. This historical map of Barcelona shows how the city has grown, from the foundation of Roman Barcino, up until today.

By scrolling through a timeline of the major dates in the city’s growth, the user can observe the progressive expansion of the city walls of Barcelona from Roman to medieval times, the gradual emergence of villages outside the city walls, the construction of the Ciutadella fortress (built to prevent insurrection against the occupying Spanish forces), the expansion of the coastline and the creation of the Barceloneta on land reclaimed from the sea, and then from the rapid creation of the Eixample in the 19th to the sudden urbanisation of the suburbs and the gradual merging with Sant Adrià and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
The journey through is accompanied by explanatory notes and markers indicating famous and important buildings of the time.

This is a wonderful tool for visitors to Barcelona, an aid to making the most of a visit to the city; an easy and condensed way to understand the city’s history, architecture, culture and how it became the magnificent capital it is today.

View the map for yourself here

Posted in Architecture in Barcelona, Areas - The Old Town & Ramblas, Catalan traditions and culture | Leave a comment

Cuentos Cruentos

Opening in Barcelona this month is Cuentos Cruentos from Spanish theatre group Teatro Calánime, a witty and original Spanish musical that offers a contemporary re-imagining of classic children’s fairy tales.

Written by Dino Lanti and acted by Mariona Ginès and Joan Rigat, Cuentos Crentos offer up the Seven Dwarves living on unemployment benefits, an overweight Cinderella who cannot pay for her glass slippers, the Three Little Pigs who cannot find affordable housing, and Alice lost in Wonderland after partying too hard.

This unconventional musical turns the conventions of the genre on its head. Classic childhood characters and stories are reset within the struggles and challenges of modern-day life. It explores issues such as unemployment, the current precarious nature of work, the housing crisis and the global economic crisis.

Teatro Calánime was founded in 2007 by Dustin Guerri and Hugo Guzman, who met as students at the Instituto de Teatro in Barcelona. To date they have produced four shows, including The Tremendous Adventures of Captain Gazpacho and an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. These productions couple a magical quality with a comically dark touch.

Performed in Spanish, ‘Cuentos Cruentos’ will be showing at Poblenou’s Utopia 126 from March the 17th-20th. For tickets click here.

Posted in Nightlife in Barcelona, Theatre | Leave a comment

Catalan Traditions explained, Part 1


Often the highlight of Catalan (and Balearic) festivals, the ‘correfoc’ harks back to medieval times. Correfoc literally means ‘fire run’ – it is basically a firework display in which fireworks explode at street level, instead of being fired into the air. It is not for the faint hearted.

Symbolically the correfoc represents the battle between good and evil. ‘Colles de diablos’, or groups of devils, dance to drums, push giant model beasts through the streets, and light fireworks on pitchforks. The devil dancers then weave through the crowd spewing a shower of sparks everywhere.

Banned for over 30 years under Franco, the correfoc tradition was reborn in 1979 and is now attended by thousands each year during Barcelona’s Mercè festival, as well as many other festivals throughout Catalunya.


One of the most jaw-dropping of all Catalan traditions (and there are quite a few) the most iconic of all the quirky Catalan traditions is the ‘castell’, or ‘human tower’.

First performed in 1712, the tradition has become a staple of Catalan identity, and a feature of Catalan festivals. Today, any town, or district within Barcelona, boasts its own Castellers team.

These teams that compete to see who can highest and best formed best human tower are called ‘colles castellers’.

For a tower of any formation to be considered completed, a small child must climb to the top, raise one arm and hold up four fingers (to represent the four stripes of the Catalan flag).

This impressive act of teamwork extends right down to the ‘pinya’ – the crowd of people below acting as a base, who also act as a safety net in case the tower collapses.

Sardana dancing

Originally from the north of Catalunya, the sardana dance is an important symbol of Catalonia’s traditions, unity and pride.

Dancers join hands in a circle and with their arms raised as they make precise steps to the music. As the small brass band plays, the circle becomes larger and larger. Movements are very controlled and dancers wear expressions of extreme concentration on their face, it is thus possibly one of the most cerebral dances ever conceived.

The Sardana is yet another tradition that was banned under Franco’s regime, and while the Sardana lacks some of the flair of some famous Spanish dances, such as Flamenco, it is not without its charm, and most importantly, the dance emphasises Catalan tradition and culture. Like the Castell, it emphasises values of community and co-operation.

Posted in Catalan traditions and culture | Leave a comment

Mecal Film Festival 2016

Mecal is the International Short Film and Animation Festival of Barcelona which celebrates inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking. In 2016 Mecal celebrates its 18th edition and is set to screen over 350 short films from 38 different countries. With more than 5500 short films submitted and 350 works screened in the last edition, Mecal has already become one of the most important festivals of its field in Spain, as well at European and international levels.

Taking place from March the 10th until April the 3rd, participants are offered the opportunity to vote for the best title from each of the four categories: international, documentary, animation and oblique. Winners from each category will automatically be longlisted for a Goya Award—the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars.

The festival also will run a series of workshops and classes where visitors can learn from industry professionals. Topics this year include sessions on animation, crowd funding and audiovisual media.

Mecal will take place at selected venues across the city including the CCCB, the MACBA and the Centre Arts Santa Mònica.

More Information

Dates: Mar 10, 2016 to Apr 2, 2016

Posted in Film in Barcelona, shows and concerts in Barcelona | Leave a comment

Brunch Elektronik

Brunch Elektronik is Piknic Electronik’s electronic younger brother. It was begun in 2015 and offers a versatile program featuring children’s activities, flea markets, vinyl fairs and the performances from the best national and international DJs.

The 2016 of Brunch Elektronik gets under way on Sunday and is sure to be a sell out success with a quality line-up of DJs bringing a little bit of Detroit to Poble Espanyol.

Opening proceedings is producer, remixer and DJ Terrence Parker, with his classic Detroit house music. Since the release of Life on the Back 9 in 2014 Parker has been returned to playing live again, great news for house fanatics.

Following Parker is none other than Kevin Saunderson, of Inner City fame, another pillar of Detroit’s underground music movement, who has been key to the development of Techno since the Eighties.

Continuing with Detroit legends, the final act is Carl Craig. Craig has been providing the world with ground-breaking music since 1989.

Book now for an excellent danced-filled afternoon with some of Detroit’s finest acts, with food, drink and a great crowd to top it off. Brunch Electronik’s new venue is the Poble Espanyol on Montjuic.

Posted in Activities - Spring, Concerts in Barcelona, Music in Barcelona | Leave a comment

Let’s Festival 2016

Let’s Festival takes place in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat in the south of the city, between the centre and the airport. In 2016 the Let’s Festival returns for its 11th edition with a fantastic line-up including some of this year’s freshest and most exciting new artists.

Indeed, many of the acts who will perform are recent award-winners, or have brought out new records in recent months.

For example, on March the 11th critically acclaimed Triángulo de Amor Bizarro will release their latest album Salve Discordia (2016); a fast-paced mixture of indie rock and post punk.

March 12th sees the turn of Madrid instrumental rockers Toundra, whose 2015 album Superball Music was named best disc of the year by the influential Spanish music magazine Mondosonoro.

A new addition to this year’s Let’s Festival is Let’s Kids, a new children’s section of the festival. Here the Rock and Kids band will perform child-friendly tunes on March 6th. This is ideal for parents who want to enjoy music with their children.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Music at the Pedrera

The Casa Mila, popularly known as La Pedrera (the quarry) is one of the jewels of Barcelona. It was the last civil building by Gaudi, and was considered to be controversial because of its undulating stone facade and twisting wrought iron balconies and windows.

Fast forward a century, it delights visitors to the city, and is the venue for some wonderful concerts and exhibitions.

Music at the Pedrera is one such event. This year a careful selection of the most talented young performers in Catalunya has been made.

Twenty-three candidates were whittled down to three for the 2015-2016 season. All were assessed on their artistic talent and potential for developing an outstanding career, both at home and abroad,

The chosen few are the baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé, harpist Esther Pinyol, and pianist Ricard Rovirosa.

Throughout the 2015-16 cycle, there will be a monthly concert.

• Josep-Ramon Olivé (November 15th, March 20th, April 17th)
• Ricard Rovirosa (December 20th, February 28th, May 15th)
• Esther Pinyol (January 17th, June 19th)

For more information see the website of La Pedrera.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Victors and Vanquished

This weekend in Barcelona the fascinating Victors and Vanquished exhibition is running at the Entitat Memorial Democràtic, until February the 26th.

The exhibition examines the tragic consequences of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s subsequent dictatorship through a series of photographs, memorabilia and eye-witness accounts of Catalunya’s harsh treatment under Franco.

Following the fall of largely republican Barcelona to Francisco Franco’s fascist forces in 1939, Catalan autonomy was revoked, nationalism repressed and use of the Catalan language was restricted.

With a democratic tradition stretching back to the early Middle Ages, when Catalunya had one of Europe’s first written constitutions, predating even the Magna Carta, many Catalans think of themselves as a separate nation from the rest of Spain.

At the end of the Spanish Civil War, thousands of Catalans were exiled, imprisoned or, in the worst cases, shot and buried in mass graves. Vencedors i vençuts tells their story, as well as how Francos dictatorship affected the lives of ordinary Catalans.

Visiting Information

Entitat Memorial Democràtic,
Carrer del Peu de la Creu 4, Barcelona
24th to 26th of February 2016

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Suite Festival 2016

As the Suite Festival returns to the Gran Teatre del Liceu for its second edition it looks set to become a name in Barcelona’s stellar musical line-up to rival Sonar and Primavera Sound.

Musically the festival invites diverse artists from the national and international music scene. This year
Paul Anka, Chris Cornell, and Julieta Venegas are just some of the artists that will perform.

Unlike Sonar and Primavera Sound, Suite Festival unwinds slowly over the space of months. Catalan act Sopa de Cabra opened the festival on January 17th and continues until May 18th. The next concert takes place on March the 8th , when French rock star, Johnny Hallyday takes to the stage.

The event organisers’ objective is to attract a broader public to one of the most wonderful music performance spaces in Barcelona, the Liceu, which is traditionally known as a venue of opera and classical music.

Suite Festival Lineup

  • March 8th. Johnny Hallyday
  • March 12th. Antonio Orozco (sold out)
  • March 21st. Emir Kusturica and the no smoking orchestra
  • April 10th. Julieta Venegas
  • April 13th. Manuel Carrasco (sold out)
  • April 27th. Manuel Carrasco
  • May 19th. Manuel Carrasco
  • April 21st. Chris Cornell
  • May 18th. Michel Camilo

More Information

When: 31st of December – 23rd of May
Where: Gran Teatre del Liceu. Get there via Metro – Liceu (L3)
Price: From €15 – €125 depending on seats and act
Buy Tickets: Tickets available here
Website: Official Suite Festival website here

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment