The towns and villages of Catalonia celebrate their festivals and traditions to the full. If you want to visit them at the best time of year, wander around their streets when they are holding the Festa Major. Even the faces of the locals wear a permanent smile! But there are other events throughout the year that are highly anticipated and bring thousands of people together. They are very diverse, some centuries-old, others more recent but already a regular fixture on the calendar and essential dates for those looking for a good time. Check out the list that we have compiled for you of the main events held throughout the year.
Fia-Faia in Bagà and Sant Julià de Cerdanyola
A Christmas tradition of pre-Christian origin held on the night of December 24. In 2015, along with other fire rituals from the Pyrenees, the Fia-Faia was listed UNESCO World Heritage. In Bagà and Sant Julià de Cerdanyola, in the region of El Berguedà, torches called faies are lit from a bonfire on the top of a hill. The faia bearers run quickly down the hill after sunset, creating a powerful spectacle. When they reach the village, they share the fire with the people carrying torches, while singing 'Fia-Faia, que Nostro Senyor ha nascut a la paia' (Fia-Faia, Our Lord is born among the straw).
Tres Tombs in Igualada
On the occasion of the festival of Saint Antoni Abat, protector of animals, many places hold the Tres Tombs. Its central event consists of the animals parading around the town or village three times. The horses usually take centre stage, and on this day many pet owners take their animals to the priest to be blessed. One of the most famous Tres Tombs is in Igualada, which has been held continuously since 1822.
Gran Festa de la Calçotada in Valls
The calçots and the calçotades have spread like wildfire throughout Catalonia in recent years and many restaurants include them on their menus between December and March. But nobody forgets that they originated in Valls, in the region of L’Alt Camp. And if anyone doubts this, they only need to go there on the last Sunday of January and see how people celebrate the Gran Festa de la Calçotada. And, by the way, what is the calçot? It is a variety of scallion or green onion cooked over a hot fire, peeled and eaten with a sauce. As with any food, no description is as good as actually trying them!
Carnivals of Sitges and Vilanova i la Geltrú
The Carnival is held in many parts of the world. In Catalonia people wear costumes and go into the street to celebrate and each town and village has its own characteristics and activities. The Carnivals of Sitges and Vilanova i la Geltrú, both in the region of El Garraf, are the most popular and best known in the country. In Sitges feathers and sequins dominate while Vilanova is famous for the comparses (parading groups) and sweet wars.
Saint George’s Day
Saint George is the patron saint of Catalonia. Saint George's Day, on 23 April, is enjoyed in each and every one of the towns and villages of Catalonia. It is the day of the rose and the book: the custom was for men to give a rose to women and women to give a book to men, although it is increasingly more common for women to receive a book and many men to get a rose. The streets are full of stalls selling roses and books decorated with the Catalan flag, and the most acclaimed writers end up with hand strain after signing copies for their readers.
Festival held in Tarragona during the month of May celebrating the history of the Roman period. Lectures, debates, exhibitions, guided tours, audiovisual screenings, routes, workshops, theatre plays or even historical recreations take place in different parts of a city that preserves a huge legacy from its past as one of the most important towns of the Roman Empire.
Aplec del Caragol in Lleida
Food festival based on escargot, of which 12 tons are served and tasted by 200,000 visitors over three days. This is an event that lovers of this ancestral symbol of Lleida's traditional cuisine cannot miss because it is cooked and served in so many ways. It was first held in 1980, and since then has grown constantly until achieving international prestige.
Patum de Berga
Listed as Oral and Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO, it is a traditional festival held in the capital of the region of El Berguedà during Corpus Christi that brings together thousands of people dancing to the rhythm of the comparses (parading groups) and the music. The high point is La Patum Completa, on Corpus Christi Thursday and Sunday, and particularly during Els Plens, documented since the year 1621 and with fire filling the entire square.
Aplec de Calella
The sardana, a dance performed by forming a circle and holding hands, which follows the rhythm of a music that is also called sardana and played by a musical ensemble (cobla) with very specific instruments, is considered the national dance of Catalonia. You can listen to sardanes or watch the dance at different times in all the town and village festivals, and also on other occasions, such as the so-called Aplecs, gatherings of sardana dancers and musicians. The oldest one is in Calella, in the region of El Maresme, and is called the Aplec Pairal de Catalunya. It dates back to 1926.
Revetlla de Sant Joan
On the night of 23 June in Catalonia the tradition is to drink cava and eat coca, light a bonfire in the squares, dance around it and throw firecrackers. Old junk is burnt on the bonfires, symbolising moving on from the old to the new, lit with the fire from the emblematic El Canigó mountain, located in French Catalonia. It is the Revetlla de Sant Joan, a festival that lasts until dawn, which also celebrates the coming of the summer, and a night when almost every orchestra plays.
Cantada d'Havaneres in Calella de Palafrugell
The havaneres, a musical style that comes from sailors and fishermen, have a great following in Catalonia. There are lots of pieces in Catalan, some of them very popular, and many groups base their repertoire on this genre. If you travel to Catalonia in summer you will find lots of concerts of havaneres. But the best known takes place on the first Saturday of July in Calella de Palafrugell, a town on the Costa Brava. Thousands of people attend and the small boats follow to the melodies from the sea.
Costa Brava International Fireworks Competition
If you are someone who really enjoys fireworks, in late July you must go to Blanes, a seaside town in the region of La Selva. Sitting on the beach you can enjoy a competition that, over five evenings, brings together participants from the whole world to find the best pyrotechnics company. A great show in the Costa Brava sky.
There is no village, however small, that does not set aside a few days on the calendar to celebrate its Festa Major, a time for locals to get together, with music, dancing, fireworks, street parades (cercaviles in Catalan) with gegants (giants), capgrossos (big heads) and other figures made of papier-mâché. Most of these festivals coincide with the patron saint's day and religious ceremonies also form part of the programme. Some Festes Majors have achieved prestige and fame beyond the municipality and enjoy the presence and participation of hundreds or thousands of outsiders.
Aquelarre de Cervera
It takes place in late August in this town near Lleida, and in 2017 will be held for the fortieth time. The world of witchcraft, esotericism, magic and fire fills the streets of Cervera, while the central character is the Mascle Cabró (a satyr). The correfocs, with groups of people dressed as devils and lighting fireworks, are spectacular and thrilling. Held on the same days is the Fira del Gran Boc, where you can buy arts and crafts, textiles and esoteric products in the University building.
FiraTàrrega - Teatre al Carrer
Since 1981, on the second weekend of September, the town of Tàrrega fills with theatre. There are many well-attended shows held in the streets and squares, but also in halls. An international performing arts market, with an eclectic programme providing a big showcase for companies and professionals from all over the world.
Mercat de Música Viva de Vic
When summer is coming to an end, squares, streets and venues in the town of Vic fill with music, in a fair held since 1989 that attracts both the public and music professionals. The biggest and most vibrant concerts take place at dusk in the emblematic Plaça Major. In this location, which is always worth a visit, every Tuesday and Saturday there is a market that has been held for centuries, and throughout the year it provides the setting for other important events.
Sitges Film Festival - International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia
The leading fantasy film festival in the world and one of the most internationally prestigious events held in Catalonia. Founded in 1968, it has just held its 50th edition, and every year many names from the film world visit Sitges. Many of the most successful films in the last few decades of the fantasy and horror genres have had their world premiere on the screens of Sitges.
Concurs de Castells in Tarragona
Many diades castelleres, during which human towers are built, take place the length and breadth of Catalonia every year, especially between April and November. We recommend that you attend some to discover this tradition that has recently been experiencing a real golden age, with the formation of human towers never seen before. In fact, the castells are not a competition but each group (colla) tries to surpass itself. But every two years the Concurs de Castells takes place in the Tarraco Arena Plaça, with the participation of the best colles. A competition full of emotion and extraordinary human towers.
Fira de l'Avet in Espinelves
As in other countries, in many Catalan houses it is traditional to decorate a Christmas tree in December. And also for many people it is a tradition to buy this tree in the Fira de l'Avet in Espinelves, in the region of Osona. Thousands of people have visited it every year since it began in 1981, and one of the characteristics of this fair is that the fir tree growers sell their trees directly, which come from the forests close to the village.
Fira de Santa Llúcia
This is an arts and crafts and typical Christmas paraphernalia fair and has been held since 1786 in the square in front of Barcelona Cathedral. You can buy Christmas trees, decorations, nativity scene figures ‒ in Catalonia there is a character call Caganer, which usually wears the typical Catalan hat and defecating... ‒, or the Tió, a log with a human face that is beaten with a stick so that it 'shits' presents. Many other Catalan towns hold a similar fair in December ‒ although with fewer stalls ‒ and in some cases it is also called Fira de Santa Llúcia.