The little Priorat town’s streets are flooded with people to watch a parade of horses and mules pulling carts led BY and filled with adults and children in traditional attire
January and February can, in some places, be as bleak as a lifeless funfair on a wet, cold dawn. We should know. We came here from a grey, disunited kingdom where winter can be... um... rather long.
What is needed on the isle of my birth is a return to the rhythm of fellowship, traditions for all; some of that warmth radiating from wise backwater Mediterranean communities. It is a lesson long learned, stupidly forsaken, a unity fundamental here in The Priorat and, for sure, countless peaceful neighbourhoods worldwide.
The crescendo of Christmas and Three Kings and then the packing up of the lights, pesebre and tió, can sag the shoulders. But hold your horses. The Falset encamisada is just around the corner, on the weekend nearest to January 17th, St Anthony’s Day. The little Priorat town’s streets are flooded with people to watch a parade of horses and mules pulling carts led by and filled with adults and children in traditional attire.
It is colourful, loud and proud, held on the Saturday night and again on the Sunday morning, to mark the legend of local men in the 18th century defeating French forces one misty night. They wore white shirts so as not to be seen and took the invaders by surprise.
Working animals were brought to town by farmers to mark the victory, but today it is usually local families who hire them and carts to join in.
There is always something to anticipate – carnival, chocolate fest (oops - Setmana Santa), wine fair, theatre, dance, concerts, craft fairs, festes. One or more Catalonia- defining human castell might pop up too. Just don’t ask me to watch.
All of the above keep what matters most in the mind, the people we share so much of life with, the land we touch, the necessity of good nature and the values that lift us all.
And here is the antidote to the gross realities of a world spinning off its axis. This year looks like it could be particularly grim given the ever widening conflicts and atrocities - and the way the US is hurtling towards a cliff edge.
Community and place are first and foremost. Stand together. Support each other. Loosen the bond and we all fall. They sustain us along paths not of our choosing. There are among us people who are, heart and soul, integral to the great unseen castells, people of all ages. In truth there are few who are not in their own way. We just need to remember we matter, have a role.
By the time I finish it I suspect I will already have found my book of the year - Lo mig del mon by Roser Vernet is a book from the beating heart of the Priorat, from Catalonia, for the whole world.
And for young readers I recommend El cas de la Miloquera by Antoni Escoda Rimbau, illustrated by Efrem Llorach Basseda.