Whether it’s forming a giant human tower, enjoying seasonal local produce, or performing historic dances, Catalunya is home to a rich culture filled with quirky traditions that take place throughout the year. Locals celebrate their culture in a number of diverse ways. As a land with a distinct identity and strong national culture, Catalan citizens prioritize keeping up their quirky traditions. To learn about some of the fun ways locals preserve their cultural identity, check out these interesting Catalan traditions.
“Catalan traditions don’t only happen around the same time as international holidays like Christmas or Halloween, some are evergreen traditions that are present at many points throughout the year,” said El Nacional En. In Catalunya, some traditions have festivals dedicated to them while others are the highlight of a celebration. Even if you don’t want to participate in every tradition yourself, Catalan traditions can be a spectacle for everyone. To help learn more about the region’s diverse culture, follow this guide detailing 5 quirky Catalan traditions.
In Catalan, castellers means a castle, but the English translation is more literal: a human tower. That description is very accurate to what castellers are, groups called colles form a tower as high as they can. These towers begin with a mass of people at the bottom who support the higher levels and provide safety in case anyone falls. From there, different castellers have different amounts of people on each level, with stocky and strong members towards the bottom with leaner and lighter members up high, with smaller children completing the final layers. Castellers can be as tall as 10 stories high, and they are often present at different festivals and historic structures throughout the summer.
La castanyada is a tradition that happens on the evening of October 31st, but it is very different from Halloween where people dress up as scary monsters. For la castanyada, families eat seasonal produce to remember their departed relatives, most famously, roasted chestnuts wrapped in paper. Bonfires are lit to roast chestnuts, sweet potatoes, and other produce. It’s becoming increasingly popular for traditional costume-wearing Halloween celebrations to accompany this Catalan culinary tradition.
On the scale of quirky traditions, the caga tió is certainly one of the quirkier ones. Caga tió translates from Catalan to ‘pooping log’. Originally, the log symbolized warmth and heat, but it has sense been converted into a character with eyes, a red nose, a traditional hat, and smaller planks for limbs. Starting on December 13th alongside the twelve days of Christmas, the family children feed the caga tió and put a blanket over him. “On Christmas Eve, parents will hide gifts under the blanket. In the morning, the children hit it with sticks, telling it to poop out gifts, and when the children lift the blanket, gifts appear alongside a chocolate nougat called turró,” said El Nacional En.
The sardana is a traditional Catalan dance, and like castellers, it is not confined to any specific part of the year. The sardana is a simple circle dance, existing for hundreds of years and continuing through today. Sardana is meant to allow anyone to join in throughout the dance if they know the basic moves, with all ages encouraged to participate. “Different iterations of the dance typically last between 5 and 10 minutes, and the dance is typically done on Sundays outside Barcelona Cathedral,” said El Nacional En.
Weirdly, Catalunya has a second poop-themed tradition with the caganers. Caganers translates to ‘poopers’ and they find their origin in nativity scenes. In Catalunya, nativity scenes typically are more expansive than just Jesus and Mary in the manger, they’ll incorporate large landscapes with the surrounding city. Caganers entered the nativity scene between the 17th and 18th centuries, where they would be hidden somewhere in the large model, and the tradition in Catalunya is for children to find the Caganer. Now, Caganers have become an incredibly popular symbol, with caganers of superheroes, politicians, sports players, and everything in between being made into a Caganer.
Produced in association with El Nacional En
Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager
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