A special series. Carnaval, Barcelona, Spain – — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
[Carnaval in Barcelona is a smaller event, with parades and activities for families but less of the party atmosphere. The themed color was orange, as you can see from the confetti decorating the square.]
While there is no set religion in Spain, Roman Catholicism has prevailed as the most practiced across the country despite increasing immigration and a certain apathy in the younger generations in the last few years. As Lent approaches and we head into the Easter season, one tradition practiced in many Catholic cultures is Carnaval, a party for all that starts the week before Ash Wednesday and ends with a bang on “Fat Tuesday”. In the United States we have a similar fair-style celebration, Mardi Gras, and I have fond memories of the festivities held annually at the Catholic school I attended as a girl.
The highlights of my juvenile experience were a series of games spread throughout the school; a cakewalk, and if I was really crazy- spray painting my hair in one of the side stairwells. My mom would take me around 6:00pm and we’d be home no later than 9:30. This though, was something altogether different.
[Costumes for Carnaval are big and colorful, feathers and glitter are everywhere.]
Carnaval in Barcelona is tame compared to places like Brazil, so in order to get the “full experience” my roommates and I with some friends from school made the decision to venture to Sitges, a coastal city about 30 miles south of Barcelona on Fat Tuesday, the final night of celebrations and rumored to be the biggest and best example of Carnaval.
Costumes are customary, ranging anywhere from tame (such as my roommate Zoe’s striped shirt and captain’s hat) to ridiculous- anything goes. We took a late train (10:30pm) from Barcelona and it was full of fellow Carnaval-goers. Getting to Sitges a little after 11:20pm, we exited the station and were herded down a main street, following the sound of music and the hoards of people to a spot where we could watch the festivities.
[Comparsas are groups like this, dancers dressed in similar costumes who parade down the route together, most have separate themes and some of our favorites were football, Batman and unicorns!]
Situated against a fence along the parade route we got comfortable and enjoyed the spectacle that unfolded before us. Music, loud and varying from American to Spanish pop blasted from every float that passed us, and the comparsas (groups of people all dressed in a certain theme and dancing together) seemed almost endless.
Alas, the parade did end and so we ventured further into the chaos, passing through bars and clubs until we hit the beach. At this point it was nearly 3:00am Wednesday, and to say the least we were all beat. As a group we decided we’d had our fill and began trekking back up to the station to catch one of the rotating trains heading back to Barcelona. The ride back was a bit quieter than the one heading to Sitges, as everyone was pretty pooped, but I perked up when I realized one of our fellow train riders was wearing a Green bay packers hat. I jokingly chided him in Spanish, asking why in the world he had that particular hat and he responded saying he liked the team! He was an Argentinian boy living in Barcelona playing football and going to school.
At this point I was intrigued and we began talking about football- which of course got more people involved as many Americans were riding with us and my roommate goes to Ohio State back in the states which is a conversation point in and of itself!
The time passed quickly and suddenly we were told to get off the train a few stops before we anticipated. It was 4:00am and we just wanted to be home, so instead of waiting in the metro station for an hour until it opened at 5 we all splurged on a taxi to get us closer to home. By 4:30 I was thankfully tucked in and although not altogether excited to wake up in four hours for class at 8:30 I was, and still am, thankful for having experienced Carnaval.
[While costumes are encouraged for Carnaval, they aren’t mandatory. My roommates and I took a group photo before heading to Sitges with more friends and you can see the variation in attire. (Photo credit: Meagan Loggins)]
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28 responses to “Carnaval, Barcelona, Spain – — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal”
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Thank you for sharing your experience of attending carnaval. It sounds like you had a great time! I especially enjoyed your story about seeing the man in the Green Bay Packer hat. It is amazing to hear about the little things that connect people all over the world.
Wow! Carnaval sounds like an amazing experience! Your pictures were amazing and really showed the grandiosity of this festival. I can’t even imagine what this must’ve been like in person! It looks like it was a wonderful adventure!
That is awesome for you to share! That experience must have been amazing. That is now something I would like to go to and experience. I never even heard of carnaval and you sharing makes it something unique and fun.
I definitely enjoyed reading this article! I thought it was interesting at how different and similar celebrations from all around the world an be compared to one’s that we’re used to seeing here at home. It sounds like a fun thing to be apart of!
Seems like you are having such a fun time over there, I am super jealous. I thinks that its so awesome to see how trends and sports cross national boundaries and can be loved around the world. Being someone who played football at my college, it was awesome to see that the sport is gaining ground in places outside of the United States. Aside from the Packers hat. Haha.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Carnaval. It looks like its a fun tradition. I really like how you found connection between the Carnaval and Mardi gras. I had never heard about it before but after reading your post, I now have an inkling of what it is about.
I am very jealous of the carnival you got to go to it sounded amazing. The art about the Green Bay Packers hat is actually really funny because my roommate is a huge Packer fan! I myself am not much of a Packer fan, but it is awesome that you got to meet a fellow fan in a different country.
Great to hear about the fun festivities that different countries celebrate. I personally liked the part of the Green Bay Packer fan..small world! Best of luck with the rest of your adventures!
Carnaval sounds like a great event to attend and it sounded like you had a blast at the event too. I would love to see those unicorns in the parade! That would be something nice to see. It was also interesting to read about how you didn’t get home til 4:30 am and you also had class at 8 in the morning too. But the experience at the event must have been worth staying up all night! Thank you to sharing your experiences. I love reading them!
I enjoyed this article! I didn’t know that in Barcelona they also had a carnaval, but it was interesting learning about it. The best part was how you ended up talking about football on your way back.
Is amazing how carnivals are so popular all over the world! in my country very similar to Barcelona, we have the Carnaval of Barranquilla which is also during the weekend before lent. We as a Spanish colony also have catholic roots. I thought it was interesting how we also have comparsas and costumes and just have fun before lent.
The pictures are beautiful, Barcelona is a place that I would love to visit. I experienced the same thing with the hair painting and cake walk, to experience a real carnaval would be amazing. Continue having fun and sharing your stories!
This is an awesome article about how carnivals all over the world differ in their own specific ways. I have been to a couple of carnivals in my life but nothing an extravagant as that. I wish I had been there because it sounded like an amazing experience.
Wow what awesome pictures! The carnival looks so fun! Its great to hear about how different places in the world treat carnivals. I wish I could of attended this carnival!
What an incredible experience. I would love to celebrate Carnaval in a foreign country. I think something can be said about the global importance of religion here, though, since people around the world are often celebrating “Mardi Gras,” “Carnival” or something similar on the exact same night! And I’ll bet the party was a blast.
This is such an awesome thing to experience! While I’ve never had a huge desire to go to Spain or Brazil, it would be worth it just to see this!
What great photos to show the different dimensions of this celebration! I think the way you added your own photos to the mix showed a more personal element to this event along with your personal memories about Lent. While Lent is recognized by a variety of people in Minnesota, it’s not recognized on this grand of scale. Your comparison to Mardi Gras I thought helped paint the picture of what this event looked like and I hope to someday see this for myself. Thank you for sharing!
Interesting read with some cool images. It is cool to see all the different kinds of festivals that are celebrated all over the world. It is important to be able to draw connections between different styles of living because then it allows one to begin to understand things from a different perspective.
Wonderful story! I felt like I was there! It’s funny how certain aspects of two cultures can be similar yet modified right under our nose. I really enjoy your articles so keep them coming please! 🙂
Carnaval sounds like a lot of fun. What is the chance of seeing someone wearing a green bay hat that is crazy and funny at the same time! I loved your pictures they showed a lot of vibrancy which I’m sure was what it was like witnessing it as well.
I had no idea they had carnivals of this sort in Spain! It seemed like lots of fun! I wonder what’s the relationship between celebrations of this sort throughout other regions of the world that have similar practices. It definitely intrigued me on the history of carnivals and their cross-cultural connections.
Sounds like you had one wild and crazy night! Its good to know people from other countries love the Packers. Also I’m a Badger and Buckeye fan as my moms from Columbus and my Dad went to Madison. Its a strange combination. The festival sounded like a lot of fun and is always better when your with friends.
That sounds like a blast, and that’s really fun that you could relate to someone there with the packers hat! I hope to one day experience something like carnival! Thanks for sharing this really fun read!
I remember when I went home last summer the roads were blocked in Harare, and people were just saying there was a “Brazilian Carnival” going on. I saw a lot of people walking around in costumes and I just didn’t get it. Well globalization over there. Thank you for sharing!
Reading this makes me a little jealous and the reason why I say this is because this sounds really fun and I also thought it was funny how you could relate to the person in the packers hat. I hope one day I have the chance to do this.
Sounds like it was one crazy night! Its crazy how small the world is, I once sat down on le Paris Plage next to a couple who turned out to be from Minnesota. In future articles will you be covering other ways Catholicism has influenced Spanish culture, or how its changing demographics is changing the church’s role in Spain?
Too funny that you saw someone with a GB Packers hat, and even got a bunch of people talking to one another about American football! It surely shows the nature of globalisation now. 😉 What a fun and exciting experience, not only to interact with others globally like that, but surely just to see Carnaval!