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UNESCO-recognized La Patum celebrations begin with a bang after Covid hiatus

First day of festivity features parade of dancing giants, demons and dragons with fire coming out of their mouths

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15 June 2022 09:15 PM

by

Guifré Jordan & Gerard Escaich Folch | Berga

La Patum celebrations for adults began on Wednesday evening with a bang: thousands of people packed the iconic Plaça Sant Pere square, where the town hall is located, and where the spirit of La Patum can be felt at every corner.

After a parade for children at midday, showing one more year that this annual festivity unites the northern Catalan town no matter the age and accompanies everyone in Berga throughout their lives, the first of five nights began at 8pm with dancing old giants (Gegants Vells group), demons with maces (Maces group), and dragons with fire coming out of their mouths (Guita Grossa) performing at the emblematic square.

For the first time in three years, due to the Covid hiatus, La Patum is taking place with Berga residents as enthusiastic as ever.

Thus, the first two 'salts', the theatrical performance of the three groups performing on Wednesday, were an incredible burst of joy and unity with thousands of people jumping and shouting at the same time with a band playing the folk songs linked with the celebration for centuries.

Party-goers raising their arms frantically defied the Guita Grossa dragon and its annual attempt to set fire to the town and its residents – this character turns 400 this year, and the members of the group accompanying it make clear to Catalan News that the actual figure is four centuries old. 

Berga's La Patum has medieval roots dating back at least 600 years, and another group turning 400 (at least) is the Tabal, those playing a namesake drum whose devilish sound will celebrate the anniversary of the first document that mentions it (1621) this year. 

As usual, during Wednesday evening, its characteristic constant beat led the celebrations that consisted of over 20 'salts' in Sant Pere square but also in several other locations across the town honoring local authorities.

The parade and party was expected to last until 2 to 4am on Thursday – but this will only be the beginning of a magic week: Saturday night will see the ritual of Wednesday repeated, and on Thursday and Sunday, Sant Pere's square will be the main location for the celebrations – they are the biggest with all groups taking place, the most iconic, and the ones attended by most people from outside Berga

Recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Such remarkable history and the fact that it is still going on nowadays explains why in 2005 the UNESCO included La Patum in its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, featuring traditions and other intangible treasures of humankind worldwide. 

The UN specialized agency praised its uniqueness and artistic and historical value, and not many such festivals can boast such recognition, since La Patum was the first in Catalonia to get it – 'castellers' human towers and the Pyrenees' 'falles' were to follow a few years later. 

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  • Berga's Plaça Sant Pere during the first day of La Patum celebrations on June 15, 2022 (by Gerard Escaich Folch)

  • Berga's Plaça Sant Pere during the first day of La Patum celebrations on June 15, 2022 (by Gerard Escaich Folch)

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