Festa Major in Reus

Reus is the birthplace of Gaudí and home to some beautiful modernist architecture. Reus is also the birthplace of my lovely boyfriend and home to an amazing Festa Major. _MG_0019

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The week starts with a small, 4 day festival called Barraques in a big empty field with live music and lots of little stalls, or barraques, where you can buy food and drink. It was free to enter and everything was reasonably priced so a great way to spend the evening and meet up with friends. There were some really great and quite famous bands performing, Obrint Pas, a catalan band and Mojinos Escozios from Andalucia who performed on the last night. With the crowd and their accents they were almost impossible to understand, but from what I did get I think these guys are Spain’s answer to Steel Panther, they were very naughty and very entertaining.

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We spent Sant Joan at Barraques but a tradition in Spain is to spend the evening at the beach, making bonfires. This is because it falls on the 23rd of June, the summer solstice and the idea is to keep the light burning all through the night.

The next day, the 24th (el dia del St Joan) was the start of the festa major, declared by ‘el Pregó’, followed by the first tronada. A tronada is a strange tradition, with very little care for health and safety (a common theme in Spain). Around the main square (Placa del Mercadal) in Reus is a trail of small canons which are linked up by a trail of gunpowder inbetween the cracks of the stone, which is placed around the inner part of the square, at the end of this is a smaller square completely filled with canons and gunpowder, which is poured onto the floor in a pattern or picture. This is then lit at one end giving off very loud explosions and light every couple of seconds with smaller explosions inbetween, when it reaches the end there is a huge explosion with lots of smoke and light. The sound is deafening and quite scary the first time you hear it. I was only about a metre and a half away and it was the loudest thing my ears have ever heard, especially as it lasts for about 30 seconds, you can feel the heat and the air as it explodes. Most people jump and back away as it starts and cover their ears. It’s totally crazy but after seeing 3 during the week I learnt to love it. It gets really exciting as you lead up to the big explosion and I love the atmostphere in the crowded square just before it starts.

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During the week lots of other things happen around town, small concerts and events, exibitions, ‘bou i arros’ (beef and rice) which is a huge public outdoor dinner, ‘ruta de masclet’ which is effectively  bar crawl around the city drinking masclet, a sweet drink made from vermouth.

Later in the week was ‘Carrefocs’, where people dressed up as devils dance around the streets with fireworks on the top of poles (again complete lack of health and safety) and you can follow them and dance along. There are various groups and they all take a different path the end up at a central point in the main square.

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On the 28th all of the different aspects of the festival come out into the city, down the streets and around the main square. Everybody, children and adults came out to see everything and it was so nice to see all the little kids excited to see their favourite character.

These are the characters or large puppets that come out and dance. There is a person inside who holds up the puppet and a team around each of them. There is also a small wind band which follows each character and plays a tune which is different for each.

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El lleó/The lion
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El basilisc/ The basilisk
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El drac/ The dragon

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La vibria/ female dragon

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L’àgila/ The eagle
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Els nanos/ The dwarves

 One of the most special parts for most people, especially children, are the gegants. These are 10 foot ‘giants’ with people inside, bopping and spinning around. In Reus they are representations of different cultures of the world, Morrocan, Japanese, African, American Indians and Europeans. There are 2 extra characters called Carrasclet who was a bandit and Elisabet Cristina, the wife of the king Carles d’Àustria.

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During the parades around the square there are also dances, by young people of the community which each represent a different thing.
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In my post about St Jordi (read here) I talked about the tradition of Castells in Catalonia and how impressive it was. Well this time they wowed me even more as there was a walking pillar Castell which walked around the square up to the town hall.
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In the evening was a little party in the park. There was live music, a DJ set in another part and food and drink.

The 29th is Sant Pere, on this day, the small representation of the saint is taken from the church and paraded around the city, which later returns to the church, following all of the other puppets and dancers from the previous day. When it arrives in front of the church all of the groups start doing their thing again, with lots of music and dancing and confetti. The atmostphere is so great and its lovely to see the whole community enjoying something together. Something we rarely see in Britain (unless we have the Olympics or someone in the Royal family gets married).

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The last night in Reus we enjoyed dinner at a friends house and made our way home the following morning. We had such a busy week and I loved seeing all the different things and learning about the culture, I think my boyfriend loved being a little kid again, getting excited about it all. I had such a fantastic time and I can’t wait to come back next year.

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