Sunday, 22 February 2009

ENG: The Comparsa Sunday of Vilanova i la Geltrú

On the Sunday, the carnival associations of Vilanova take to the streets. Already at nine o´clock in the morning do these so called comparses start to parade in big loops through the town centre. Each of them is being lead by its flag bearer (banderer) - the ribbons on the flags reveal how many times before a certain comparsa has taken part in the candy war (guerra de caramels) - and each of them has its own orchestra. Although the carnival week is a time when everything is supposed to be acceptable (“Per Carnaval, tot s’hi val!”), the comparsers have a strict dress code. They must look uniform and be easily distinguishable from the other teams. Women are expected to have an embroidered silk shawl (manton) over their shoulders and all men ought to wear a typically Catalan beret (barretina).

The comparsers dance around arm in arm in couples to la Turuta or other carnival tunes but also make several stops at bars for drinks and snacks before, somewhen after noon, it is time for them to head for the Plaça de la Vila and the candy war (guerra de caramels). However, since the very beginning of the day have they been throwing loads of candy up in the air or to the many spectators who line the streets. Apparently, that tradition comes from the so called “Indians” – Catalans who became rich at sugar plantations in Cuba during the 19th century and then moved back here again. To show their wealth, these used to throw almonds and small coins to the poorer inhabitants of the town.

They say that our carnival is based on participation, but on the diumenge de les comparses also people from the rest of Catalonia come here watch, have fun and try to catch as much candy as possible. When the weather is good - like this year - there are as many as 300.000 people in Vilanova on this day. Havin said that, from my own experience can I say that the atmosphere is unique even if it happens to rain a bit - the vilanovins simply love the comparses. Of the town’s 60.000 inhabitants, around 15.000 take part any given year.

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

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Media links: LaVanguardia on the diumenge de les comparses 2009.

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