August 5 is a day when you have to get up relatively early in case you want to experience all traditional parts of the Festa Major of Vilanova. I was quite slow, but arrived in time to see the last part of the parade leaving the plaça de la Vila. Then I was recommended not to follow them, but to rush up and focus on how the teams make their entries into the church Sant Antoni Abat. How correct! To see giants and mulasses, followed by all our groups of bastoners and other dancers passing through the high portal in formation was a sight which I am very grateful not to have missed. (Thanks Maite! (Bordegassos))
After having seen so many young people in the streets, I was surprised to find the interior of the church totally dominated by the older part of the population. From a friend I learnt that most parade participants simply walk straight through to the door on the other side, and see the mass as a perfect opportunity to, finally, eat breakfast. The mass in itself was carried out in a joint effort by many priests and at the end all visitors have the chance to kiss the local patron saint, the Virgin Mary (la Mare de Deu de les neus).
The early evening of this day is celebrated with folk dances (balls populars) in the plaça de la Vila – a great show where the audience is presented with all variations of this tradition which are performed here in Vilanova. This year, there was an extra twist to the verses and steps of the flower garland dance (ball de cercolets), the tambourine dance (ball de panderos) the shepherd dance (pastorets), the Serrallonga dance, the Valencian dance, the gypsy dance (ball de gitanes), the ribbon dance (ball de cintes), the nans (the midget dance) and the Moixiganga de la Geltrú, since some political activists struggled with the wind to hang a huge senyera (the flag for Catalan independence) on the façade behind the stage.
Before the show was over, we were also treated to a joint performance by Vilanova's four teams of stick dancers (ball de bastons).
For the first time I stayed to watch the full performance of the local Petits Diables (small devils) and the Diables de Vilanova. I am not a fan of noise but the satiric verses read in between are well thought-through and those of us who still struggle with the Catalan language, can follow the text in the souvenir program sold on the occasion.
The late evening performance parade of this day (la cercavila del vot del poble) is also dedicated to the Virgin Mary and leads up to the town’s vow to be faithful to her for another year. After a first short stop in C/ Caputxins, I took my final position right below the church Sant Antoni Abat, since that is where all teams make a last effort to excel before they reach the goal. Participants of the moixiganga, the falcons and the castellers climb the church steps in suitable constructions while the stick dancers (bastoners) arrive totally sweaty after having danced non-stop for a good part of the Rambla.
Here, a priest (mossèn) and our mayor make short speeches and then - while fireworks light up the dark sky - all teams receive a last opportunity to perform before it is all over for this year: there is music, people dancing and building castells and there is fire and explosions from dragons and devils. If I would have to select one and only one favourite moment to symbolize the festa major of Vilanova i la Geltrú, then this would be it. The only sad detail is that it always leaves me with a strong feeling of emptiness. Visca la Festa Major de Vilanova i la Geltrú!
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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova