Cultural Activity: El Carnaval

Before coming to Europe, I had no idea what Carnaval was, and I was extremely surprised that it was so common all over Europe. The first time I heard of it was my first weekend traveling in Europe, when I went to Dublin and met people from Holland saying how excited they were for it – they would celebrate it in Amsterdam.

My Spanish instructor described it like America’s 4th of July in terms of the celebration, but after experiencing Carnaval for myself, I felt that although there were some similarities, it was an overall very different experience. Carnaval felt more like a Mardi Gras event combined with Halloween, because everyone wore a variety of costumes, and there was beads and boas everywhere just like Mardi Gras. The only similarities to the 4th of July were the abundant fireworks, and the parade (although again the parade seemed more like Mardi Gras).

In the week of Carnaval, you could feel the city’s excitement. The market closed to my house, Mercat de La Concepcio, there was a Carnaval decoration contest! Market goers could vote on which stand they thought was decorated the best, and the one with the most votes won a prize. Some of the workers even dressed up themselves, as well as their stand area.

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In the pictures you notice all the bright colors, as well as the colorful boas and balloons, all typical of Carnaval decoration. There were also 100 dollar bills, which gave the whole thing a casino, Las Vegas-esque feel. In the bottom right picture you can see the worker wearing pilgrim-like clothing.

To celebrate the last day of Carnaval, I went to Sitges Tuesday night to (very) early Wednesday morning. The pictures I took leave a lot to be desired, to some of the ones below are my own, and others are ones from my friends. The ones during daylight are from the internet, as I only joined in the celebration starting at like 11pm.

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The history of carnival is really interesting, it dates back to Roman times and ancient pagan festivals. It is one of Catalonia’s most deep rooted traditions. In Sitges, carnival has been held for over 100 years, from February 23rd to March 1st. In the “extermination procession” parade, over 2,000 participants in costumes entertain on over 50 floats.

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