The Eye

Festa major in Banyoles

Photo: Sara Cabarrocas

A cause for celebration

For a few days every summer in just about every village, town and city in Catalonia, local communities let their hair down as families and neighbours come together to celebrate the ’festa major’. Going back to at least the 13th century, the tradition of the ’festa major’ – the annual local festival usually honouring a saint or remembering the town’s founding – is still strong in the country, with some places even holding a second one during the winter months.

In today’s fast-paced, digital world, the ’festa major’ provides an increasingly rare chance for communities to come together, usually around a local square or church, to eat, dance, listen to music, play games, enter contests, and enjoy traditional processions, often topping things off with a firework display.

While some of the festivals in small places might involve only a few dozen people, the ’festa major’ can be a huge event in big cities involving thousands of people with budgets running into the hundreds of thousands of euros. Prominent examples are the Festa Major de Gràcia, in Barcelona, which this year takes place from August 15 to 21, or the Festa Major de Vilafranca del Penedès, from August 29 to September 2.

Yet, whether large or small, on the coast or in the mountains, whether centuries-old or of recent origin, there is sure to be a ’festa major’ taking place near you at some point this summer.

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