Tuesday, 17 February 2009

ENG: The Carnival of Vilanova - Day By Day

The full carnival program of Vilanova i la Geltrú is available in Catalan. If you know Spanish or French and let the descriptions in the entry below serve as a glossary to some quite local names and expressions, you will not have any problems to understand it. Officially, the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú lasts from the 7th to the 28th of February, but here I will focus on the week usually considered to be the proper carnaval.

For moon crazy (llunàtic) Vilanova we have to start by making an exception. The Saturday before the Carnival is by tradition dedicated to the Ball de Mantons. This evening people dress up - all women in characteristic embroidered silk shawls - and go out and dance with the other members of their carnival societies respectively.

Dijous Gras (N.B: not mardi gras or Fat Tuesday) on carnival Thursday is when the festivities really take off. In the afternoon, pastry baker Blanch (Av. Francesc Macià, 43) throws out a huge meringue and that is the starting point of the merengada, a meringue war, at the Plaça del Mercat. In the evening, families gather for a traditional meal of xató for starters, and four kinds of truita (omelettes based on botifarra (a kind of sausage), artichoke, potatoes and aubergine) for mains and coca de lladrons or meringue for dessert.

Carnival Friday marks the arrival of the carnival king – l’arrivo del rei Carnestoltes. In the early evening, he and his concubines lead a parade through the town. The final stop is the Plaça de la Vila where the king reads a satirical sermon about what has happened in the town during the last year.

In the morning of Carnival Saturday, the carnival king and his followers pays visits to the markets and the Rambla of Vilanova. During the day there are several performances of the ball de malcasats – the local version of a Catalan folkdance based on satiric acting. In the late afternoon Caramel – a funny figure driving around in his bicimobil - arrives in town and invites all children to dance and sing. Some hours later the Moixó Foguer leads a procession of sleep walkers (people dressed in white night gowns). The Moixó Foguer himself is – believe it or not – a naked man, soaked in honey and covered with feathers. The night, in the end, is called the Nit de Mascarots and some of the carnival societies organize private masquerade parties, but a few walk around and dance in the streets of the town.

On Carnival Sunday, as early as nine a’clock in the morning, the Comparses start to parade through the town accompanied by their own loud orchestras. In front of walks a flag bearer, followed by the members - who come in couples - dressed in a way distinctive from the other comparses. While they dance through the streets they throw candy to all spectators. The epicentre of the activities is the Plaça de la Vila, where the comparses take turns in fighting each other in candy wars (guerra de caramels) which can be very fierce and leave the whole town with a strong, sweat smell.

Carnival Monday is reserved for the Vidalet – when three children's parades unite at the Plaça de la Vila where there is a show with music and dancing. In the early evening, choirs sing carnival related songs all around the town centre.

Carnival Tuesday is named after the Vidalot who historically were some unusually rowdy carnival participants who with feather dusters and carpet beaters in their hands threatened anyone who did not wear a masque. Nowadays, this is the day when competitions are being held in presenting the best masquerade costume, on the one hand, and writing the best erotic short story, on the other. New for this year is a parade to honour the old cannon of the Victor Balaguer Museum, since our neighbour town Sitges claims that it is theirs.

The carnival ends on Ash Wednesday (Dimecres de cendra) when the remains of the carnival king is paraded through the town in a sad and solemn procession, ending at the Plaça de la Vila. There, sardines are being served as a reminder that the carnival is over and the forty days of Lent (quaresma) - leading up to Easter - have started.

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Those of you who do not plan to come here will be able to follow the main events of the Carnaval de Vilanova here on this blog, get more details in Joan Ignasi Gómez’ blog in Catalan and watch reports by local TV channel Canal Blau.

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Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

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