Foreigners tend to know Sitges as a international and posh tourist resort, especially popular among gay men, but this is a town of many dimensions. Sitges is also a very cultural town, careful to preserve its old Catalan traditions. Never is this aspect as obvious as during the Festa Major de Sant Bartomeu, a festivity which culminates on August 23-24 every year.
This festa major is celebrated with an impressive intensity and high participation and it is the only one of the comarca (county) Garraf which, since 1991, can be found on the Generalitat’s list of Traditional Festivities of National (i.e. Catalan) Interest. Most of the elements and the order of events has remained more or less unchanged for the last 150 years. The giants, what I assume is a dragon (tarasca) and the dances are mentioned in written sources from 1814 and from 1853 there is documentation of the devils, the stick dancers (bastoners), the gypsy dance (ball de gitanes), the flower garland dance (ball de cercolets) and the now lost so called ball de Sant Bartolomeu.
After some days of vacation in folk culture poor Sweden, I was happy to be able to see at least the final procession (processó en honor a sant Bartomeu), even more so since my wife went with me. Already before had I heard that the festa major parades of most Penedès towns bear a strong resemblance, but still I was surprised. This was very similar to what we are used to from Vilanova i la Geltrú.
Among the differences, I find it worth point out that the old giants of Sitges (gegants vells) are accompanied by two quite funny couples: first the small americanos Panchito and Panchito (he apparently always carrying the latest issue of the local newspaper l’Eco de Sitges) and then the tall gegants moros (the Arabs) Faluch and Laia.
The religious element is also more present here, on the one hand since a figure of the Patron Saint sant Bartomeu is being carried in front of the local politicians and dignitaries, and on the other hand, thanks to the moixiganga - a dance which tells the story about the life of Christ and for which Sitges is famous. Visca la Festa Major de Sitges!
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On September 23 -i.e. only a month after the big one - Sitges celebrates its Festa Major Petita of Sant Tecla.
Read more in Catalan about the Festa Major de Sant Bartomeu here.
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