Friday, March 2, 2012


Just like pretty much every Catholic country in the world, Spain has a rich tradition of celebrating Carnival each year just before lent. Carnival began in Italy when people needed to "finish off" all the rich food, including the "carni/carne" (meat), and drinks prior to starting the pious period of Lent. Over time, it also became part of the tradition to dress up in costumes while they partied.

I had never been to a celebration of Carnival before but, over the days leading up to lent this year, I had the opportunity to attend three very different Carnival celebrations. The first was on Saturday night in the Poble Sec neighborhood of Barcelona where I live. It was mostly a small parade that was (surprisingly), with the exception of only two groups, made up of Latino social clubs. This is the group from Colombia:

...and this was the group from Bolivia (nope, haven't been there...yet):

Of course, what celebration in Catalunya can be complete without some form of protest? Not this one! This is the People of Poble Sec for Catalan Independence. You can read about the Catalan independence movement here. (In the small world category, the guy in the soccer uniform with the soccer ball is in my Castellers group.)

On Sunday morning, we went to visit some friends who live in the Barcelona village/suburb of San Vicent dels Horts, which is right near Colonia Guell. This celebration was much more kid-friendly and, to me, looked like Halloween. I think the thing that surprised me the most about the whole Carnival celebration was how both kids and adults were dressed in Halloween-style costumes. Before this, in my mind, Carnival was all about Vegas-show-girl-style outfits with lots of sequins and feathers. Live and learn!

This was the 70s style hippie group:

I liked this group that was made up of sharks and French-style boat captains. I'm sure that there's some significance to the theme but it escapes me. Maybe a book?

These folks had just come from the Linux Users Group meeting:

The staging area for the parade was in a large outdoor building near the train station. You can see people dressed as crayons, cave men riding dinosaurs, and, wait, what the f? Black-faced, afro-wearing coffee people? Yeah, I have no idea either...

Like I said, the whole event had a Halloween feel to it. These are some of the local kids dressed in their Halloween Carnival finest:

On the Tuesday night before Ash Wednesday, it was off to Sitges to check out one of the most famous Carnival celebrations in Spain. This event was much more what I had pictured in my mind with its Vegas-themed groups:

The quality of the costumes was outstanding and there was obviously a lot of effort put into them and the accompanying floats. Check these guys out:

Sitges is a great little beach town that's famous, like Palm Springs, for being very gay friendly. Not only does it result in the area being very nice, it gives it a great flavor too. I loved this group's costumes and their well choreographed performance:

I know that Carnival is all about the party thing. I get it. What surprised me was the percentage of people in the groups that were smoking, drinking, and/or smoking and drinking while marching. Here's a shot of a couple of girls filling up their cups at the gin-and-tonic and vodka bar located on the side of one of the floats:

Darren's award for best of show was this group from the Sitges parade. They had amazing animal-style costumes and performed live music and danced while marching. Verrrry impressive:

And, finally, the overall Carnival winner was this group, also from the Sitges parade. The group's theme was making fun of the street vendors that you see all over, especially in tourist areas like Barcelona. There were the African guys selling fake hand bags, questionable food vendors, and used clothes salesmen among many others. It was by far the funniest and most creative group.

Add Carnival to my list of experiences! It was for sure a fun way to spend the weekend. Now to go think about thinking about giving up something for lent...

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