Barcelona's fascinating customs

Probably the most interesting custom we witnessed in Barcelona is the Catalan sport of making human towers
(in Catalan the towers are called "castells" and the people who make them are called "castellers"). In a non-touristy
area of the city was a cultural center where locals went to practice the sport, and where we could watch them.

Above: children practice their climbing with a climbing wall.
Children always form the top layers of the tower and must wear helmets.

Adults wear a long sash called a "faixa" wrapped around the waist that provides back support
as well as a convenient place for those climb higher to hang on with their hands and feet.

The towers begin with a lot of planning as to who is going to be where.

Then a cluster of adults form the base, called the "pinya" or pineapple.

Then the climbers begin, to the accompaniment of special music.
The music, which changes with each step of the tower-making,
allows those who are on each level to know what is going on
without having to look up or down (which would be dangerous).

The tower stretches higher . . .

and higher . . .

until the child on top, called the "enxaneta" or rider, lifts his or her hand.

Then each person descends slowly until the castell has been dismantled.

Castells differ in size, both with the number of levels and the number of persons on each level.
The biggest castell ever built was in 2015, with ten levels and four persons on each level.
The taller the castell, the larger the pinya needs to be on the ground to support it.

It was great fun and a bit nerve-wracking to watch!

Another interesting Catalan custom is the dancing of the sardana folk dance.
Rings of dancers form in front of Barcelona's square every Sunday afternoon.

Yet another Catalan custom is the parade of Caps Grosses ("Big Heads") or Gegants ("Giants").
They are huge figures, mostly of kings and queens, medieval, Moorish, or Persian in appearance.
And they are paraded around (with two or three people inside each of them) at all festivals.

We were in Barcelona for the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi, and witnessed the weird custom
called L'ou com balla ("The Egg, how it dances!") Public fountains are decorated with flowers, and
an egg is balanced on the jet of water. No one was too clear on the origins of the custom.


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