Festa Major is held in honor of Sant Bartomeu (24th August) and Santa Tecla (23rd September) the shared patrons of Sitges. Festa Major of Sant Bartomeu lasts for more than a week. There is an intense 36 hours on 23rd August and 24th August that are filled with celebrations that date back to the middle ages. Wednesday we took in some of those festivities.
We went into Sitges around 9am to be sure we could find parking and to figure out where we needed to be enjoy the parade. We had coffee and traditional Festa Major cake for breakfast on the main street with prime seats watching the crowd gather.
As the crowd grew we were torn with leaving our perfect seats or getting up and going closer to the stage. We chose the later. Look how the area filled up! It was crazy. The parade brought the grallers playing up on to the stage. The Grallers play an instrument called a gralla. It is a traditional Catalan double reed instrument.
In the photo above you may notice a sprig of basil tucked behind an ear or on a hat. We asked a friend what the significance of the basil was. He told us it was tradition. It attracts the opposite sex. Hmmmm.
As this part of the festivities ended and the crowd dispersed, we decided to get some tapas until the next wave started. These were to start at 1400h (2pm) in front of Town Hall and then parade through the streets. We are old enough and smart enough to know where we don’t want to be in these types of events. We want to be a part of it but not in the middle of it where our younger selves might have chosen. We headed up a side street and it turned out to be the perfect place to watch.
Part of the festivities are the Diables de Sitges (Dance of the Devils) performers who dance through the streets with pyrotechnics twirling on sticks and a fire breathing dragon. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re not talking small little firecrackers either. This is one of the pyrotechnics that is being twirled around. I noticed a lot of people with these yellow pieces of plastic attached to their hats as souvenirs. The pyrotechnics are made locally.
It gets even crazier. People (read: not Bob and Xan) actually choose to be right next to them dancing so that the sparks are spraying on them. And…wait for it…they wear straw hats as protection! Told you it got crazier. We learned the hard way last September that we do not want to be anywhere close to them. It is quite exciting to watch but distance is a good thing.
The dragon actually has pyrotechnics attached to it and they spin him around. They actually stopped and reloaded him.
You may notice the people at the front doing a little dance…I think this is to shake the sparks off. We are at a good distance. LOL!
They are parading down a narrow street. All along the parade route the windows have had a protective film placed on them so they do not cause damage.
Once the devils were past most of the crowd in front of us joined them in the parade. This meant that we could move up and see the other performers. Here are some photos of a few of them.
During our vacations here over the years we have come across many of the different groups training and practicing their dances in the streets and squares around town. Everyone seems to take great pride in carrying on the traditions.
I haven’t been able to find out what this group below is called so if any of my Sitges friends can help me out I will update the blog with the info once I have it.
The parade ended with the musical group El Retiro. The crowd followed behind winding up the narrow street. Dancing along to the music.
One of the things we noticed was right after the parade had passed the street sweepers and cleaners were out cleaning the streets and emptying trash. It struck us how well coordinated this all was having been at events and run events in the past. Very impressed!
It was absolutely incredible to see all of this. And this is just a small part of the festivities. There was much more planned for the evening and then a huge fireworks display at 2300h (11pm) followed by more dancing and festivities. I have no idea how the performers keep going all day and night. We actually had good intentions of staying in Sitges through the whole thing but to be honest after standing and walking in the heat with the crowds for almost nine hours we decided to give it a miss.
I have to say…Sitges certainly knows how to throw a party!