Today I want to present one of the most complete festivities of Catalonia, and one of the best places to see the human towers. Many people come every year to Barcelona to pass some tourist days, but not that many know what they can find around it. The possibilities are numerous, and one of the best if you are there on the right time, is the Vilafranca’s Main Festivity.
It takes place in the village of Vilafranca del Penedès (famous for its wine) from 29th August until 2nd September. Its origins date back to the 17th century, and it was declared patrimonial festivity of national interest on 1991, consolidating itself as one of the biggest parties’ in Catalonia.
With some popular dances and folkloric acts dating from 1600, the popular participation is key to the development of the party, and during 5 days the streets get filled with people who want to accompany the traditional dances, to live the best Castells performance or see the entrance of the Saint in the Church of the town.
Although the town festivity begins on 22nd with low intensity acts, the main days of the festivity are from 29th to 31st, finishing with fire performances and other acts on 1st and 2nd of September.
August 29th starts with the Bell Ringing and Firecrackers, emotional moments which indicate that the party has started one more time. The folkloric groups walk in a procession dressed up with their traditional clothes while showing their abilities. Giants, devils, dwarfs, dragons, human towers and the eagle, among others, can be seen in the procession, that ends in the Council Square (Plaça de la Vila) where the human towers are built.
On the evening takes place the Saint Felix Procession, where the image of the Saint is taken from the Administrator’s house to the St. Maria’ basilica, accompanied by all the folkloric dances seen in the morning, followed by a fireworks display. In the night of Empalmada (literally meaning “connected”), music bands plays around the village until morning, helping those who, following the tradition, don’t go to sleep.
30th August is Saint Felix Day, the main day of the festivity. St. Felix Relics are on display in order to venerate them. Early morning the grallers start playing the Matinades walking around the town in order to wake up everybody.
After some more dances, begins one of the central performances of the festivity: the DISPLAY OF HUMAN TOWERS, known in the local language as Castells (Castles), showing the best formations and performances in the world in this field. Well, in not many places people play this kind of sport, and as Vilafranca has maybe the best Castells group, we can say it’s the best place to see it. I can recommend you to see it, it’s spectacular!
In the evening, the procession is formed again to take the Saint for the last time to the Church, moment known as Entrance of Saint Felix, deep and intense moment accompanied with fireworks, dances and the sound of the gralles all over the square. And after dinner the bands and concerts come again until the next morning.
Resuming, if you come from abroad, it’s clear that 30th is the best day to visit the festivity.
The Matinades come again next morning for those who still have some energy left, and the day continues similar to those before. During the day, you’ll see the folkloric dances, human towers (littler), and the Saint is finally taken from the Church to the Administrator’s house. And the music follows the whole night…
On 1st September takes place one of the most outstanding and participative shows: the Correfoc (fire-run), where groups of devils from all over Catalonia are happy to burn with fireworks all the brave people who defies them, while people on the balconies help a little by throwing water to the young courageous ones.
Finally, the 2nd is mostly devoted to the children, who do more or less the same as has been done two days ago.
Right in the month of August, when Barcelona and Catalan shores get crowded by tourists, you have one of the most amazing festivities in Europe right some kilometers away. Three days of non stop party in the city of wine.
It’s important to take a look at these things when we go somewhere: most festivities are in summer and we are mostly traveling in summer. It’s not difficult to make things match. But if we plan only to go to capitals, we are missing many things. So I would recommend leaving the tourist guide for a while, and make some little research about the places we are going in order to find some local event. And, of course, Vilafranca’s Main Festivity can be the next.
Here you have some photos: