Traditions

Discover Barcelona through its habits and traditions.

The Vermouth

Vermouth has made a comeback!

Although it never completely went out of style, vermouth, the exquisite drink with a hint of bitterness, is experiencing a new heyday in Barcelona. The old tradition of enjoying a glass with friends or family at emblematic bodegas is now more popular than ever.

Having vermouth is seen as an official rite; the rite of the aperitif, once exclusive to the class of bourgeoisie in the 18th century. Vermouth is made with fortified aromatized wine, infused with herbs and spices soaked in water and ethanol. Sometimes, a touch of caramel is added to give it a rich reddish color. Vermouth is a perfect excuse to get together with loved ones in the afternoon, and because of its popularity and role the role it plays in many aperitifs, finding a bar or bodega in which to enjoy vermouth with some tapas is thankfully very easy nowadays in Barcelona.

La Sardana

The popular dance in which anyone can participate

Among the numerous traditions that keep the city going is the ever-popular Sardana, beloved for its broad appeal and open format.

Making a meaningful cameo in every festival, the Sardana is one of the traditional dances of Catalonia. Its steps are easy to follow; participants form a circle, grasp hands, and with raised arms and pointed toes, simply move to the beat of the musical accompaniment.

The music is interpreted by the cobla, a band composed of eleven musicians and twelve instruments: ten woodwinds; one string instrument, the double bass; and a small drum, marking the beat, and played by the same performer also sounding the flabiol, a small flute that evokes the Sardana’s early days.

Agrupació Cultural Folklòrica Barcelona

Easter Mona

One of Holy Week’s most quintessential traditions

In the days leading up to Holy Week, the bakeries of Catalonia prepare a tasty and original spectacle: the Easter Mona, composed of cake and chocolate figurines; some with so much detail and complexity that they could easily pass as works of art.

There are many theories about the origins of this custom, but the etymology of the word suggests that it could derive from the Arabic term “munna,” which means “provision of the mouth,” referring to the days in which the Moors paid the lease on their lands through cakes, produce, and hard-boiled eggs.

Later on, the Christian faith adapted these customs, and in the Catholic tradition, the godfather gives the Mona to his godson on Easter Sunday, while the day it should be enjoyed is actually Easter Monday. In past centuries, the godfather gifted a ring-shaped cake made of bread flour and decorated with up to 12 eggs, symbolizing the age at which children were confirmed.

Today, Monas are made with cakes, butter, and chocolate, and adorned with feathers, candied fruits, eggs, or chocolate figurines.

Castellers

Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

According to UNESCO, castells are seen by the Catalan people as an integral component of their cultural identity, passed from generation to generation, giving the community a sense of continuity, social cohesion, and solidarity, and also playing a critical role in all of the region’s major festivals.

Castells are human towers, expressing the synthesis of physical strength and balance. Each tower is composed of three parts: the base, or pinya; the trunk, which is built upon the base; and the topmost part, typically featuring the youngest participants. Castells are measured by the number of “levels” of its trunk, and the number of participants at each level.

Every year, Barcelona’s biggest castellers activities are held at the Plaça Sant Jaume, where multiple groups gather to celebrate the Festival of the Mercè or Santa Eulàlia, one of the city’s patron saints. One of the earliest photographs of castellers in Barcelona dates back to 1902 and features the ‘Xiquets de Valls‘. But the first reference to this spectacle taking place in the city is found in 1877, in the newspaper Cataluña Chronicle, which makes special mention of the ‘Xiquets de Barcelona‘.

The oldest castellers group today is the Castellers de Barcelona, established in 1969. They’re followed by Sants (1993), Vila de Gràcia (1996), Poble Sec (1999), Sagrada Familia (1999) and most recently, Colla Jove de Barcelona (2010).

Castellers

Santa Llúcia Fair

The traditional Christmas fair

The first written references of the fair of Santa Llúcia date from 1786 but it seems that the celebration of this Christmas fair could be much older.

Each year, the oldest Christmas fair in Catalonia is installed, around December 13 (the Santa Llúcia day) in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona with more than three hundred stalls. In the fair we can find figures to mount the Bethlehem, fir trees, decorative elements, musical instruments: tambourines, carraclas and zambombas to accompany the carols; "Cagations" and the traditional "caganers".

Santa Llúcia Fair

El Tió de Nadal

A quintessential Catalan character

That playful taunt, compelling a friendly Uncle to “drop” sweets rather than sardines, is told every Christmas to the Tió de Nadal, personified as a smiling log sporting a traditional hat of the region.

In the days leading up to Christmas, he visits homes, where children get to feed him with various snacks until Christmas Day. Then, the log covers himself with a blanket, and children beat him with sticks while singing popular holiday songs. This is all in hopes that the Tió “drops” a great bounty of gifts; typically candies, sweets, or chocolates.

“Caga Tió, Tió de Nadal! No caguis arengades que són massa salades, caga turrons que són més bons!”