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Small-scale Corpus Christi celebrations return to Catalonia

The UNESCO-recognized Patum de Berga, however, did not go ahead due to the pandemic

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07 June 2021 02:47 PM

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ACN | Sitges

Catalonia has celebrated Corpus Christi once more, but on a much smaller scale, with some celebrations taking place in Sitges this year after being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Corpus Christi, a Christian festival involving rituals of pagan origin, is celebrated across Catalonia at this time of year. Processions take place throughout squares in towns and cities to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament, and in some places, such as Sitges, Arbúcies and la Garriga, ornate carpets of flowers are created and then trampled on during such processions. 

Around 30 floral carpets normally line the Sitges streets in pre-pandemic times, however this year only 5 were on display throughout the town’s historic center on Sunday, June 6.

Although, in a slight move away from tradition, five familiar figures that are representative of the city’s typical festivals presided over the floral displays: three giants, a dragon and an eagle. 

As well as this, the usual street procession did not take place this time around, and these carpets were not trampled on. As an alternative, there was a symbolic exit from the Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla parish, the town’s iconic church looking onto the sea, and into the plaça Baluard square. 

The mayor of Sitges, Aurora Carbonell, said to the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that the restricted return of Corpus Christi has been marked by “greater participation from locals”, with more people “decorating their streets and balconies” than normal. While she lamented that the festival is back in a reduced format, she added: “We have been able to preserve the festival's essence, which is essentially people placing these flowers on the ground”.

La Patum de Berga cancelled

The small town of Berga, in northern Catalonia, announced at the end of February that they would cancel the annual 'La Patum' Corpus Christi celebrations it is famed for due to the risk of Covid-19 transmission among attendees.

Normally, large crowds gather in the town to celebrate one of Catalonia’s most popular festivals, in a carnival-like atmosphere of traditional music and dances, and lots of fireworks.

This will be the second time, after last year’s cancellation, that 'La Patum' will not be held since 1937 and 1938, which is when festivities were interrupted by the Spanish Civil War.

Dancing egg celebrations go ahead in Barcelona

Despite challenges presented by the pandemic, the traditional dancing egg celebrations for Corpus Christi, l’ou com balla in Catalan, are taking place in the Catalan capital this year.

This Catalan tradition dates back to the 15th century, and although its exact origins are up for debate, the festivity itself generally consists in placing an egg shell over the water jet of a fountain that has been adorned with flowers.

The egg’s "dance" comes from the movement of the egg turning in the water, which is highly amusing to onlookers as it is said to never fall.

This year, the egg danced once again in Barcelona Cathedral’s cloister, where the first celebration allegedly took place 700 years ago. The cloister was open for visitors for four days from June 4 until June 7, being the only space where people have been able to physically see the traditional egg this Corpus Christi.

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  • A carpet made from flowers in Sitges for Corpus Christi celebrations (by Mar Martí)

  • A carpet made from flowers in Sitges for Corpus Christi celebrations (by Mar Martí)

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