La Patum kicks off: guide to Catalonia's quintessential medieval festival of demons and fire

Berga starts five days of street celebrations recognized by UNESCO with 300kg of powder ready to be fired

The Nans Vells dance at the children's Patum
The Nans Vells dance at the children's Patum / Lourdes Casademont
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

June 7, 2023 04:51 PM

June 7, 2023 05:03 PM

One of Catalonia's most iconic folk culture events, Berga's La Patum, began on Wednesday with the first parades. 

The street celebrations that mark the Christian feast of Corpus Christi were recognized by UNESCO in 2005 as part of the world's intangible cultural heritage, and date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. 

The party began on Wednesday at midday as is customary, with the 'passacarrers,' a parade where the 'tabaler', or drummer, inaugurates the week of excitement along with some 'gegants', giant human figures that are accompanied by a band playing music. 

"There is nothing like the first day, when the first tunes sound," Berga's mayor, Ivan Sànchez, told the Catalan News Agency. 

The first event of La Patum is just an appetizer ahead of the main highlights – all in all, 297kg of powder will be fired throughout the week. 

Here's a quick guide to the most famous celebration of this northern Catalan town: 

Wednesday – warming up with giants and dragons 

12pm: 'passacarrers' with the 'tabaler' banging a 400-year-old drum to kick off La Patum, also with giants parading along the whole town 

8pm: 'passacarrers' with the same elements but also including dragons and demons, called 'guita', expect celebrations until the wee hours. 'Patumaires' stop several places traditionally outside the houses of local authorities 

Thursday – the biggest day with night of madness 

12pm: 'Patum de Lluïment' is a rather relaxed parade featuring most of the customary figures. Dancing plays a central role, as does the music by Cobla Pirineu 

9pm: 'salts,' where the action revolves around Sant Pere's square, featuring all the groups and hundreds of firecrackers that are set off at the same time on several occasions as madness overcomes this jam-packed location. There are two key moments, called 'plens', at midnight and at 2am or 3am, where all lights are dimmed and a performance of some 200 people dressed up as demons that jump at once firing around a thousand firecrackers takes place. The whole event lasts almost all night 

11pm: two free concerts at plaça Cim d'Estela 

Friday – get a breath before final dabauchery 

9am, 12pm and 5pm: Patum parades and celebrations for kids, with parades and music for children – it is a version of the regular Patum but without the 'plens' 

From 6.30pm: several free concerts at plaça Cim d'Estela 

Saturday – action throughout the whole town 

7.30pm: 'passada' similar to that of Wednesday, starting at the iconic plaça de Sant Pere, with a parade of some of the main figures and demons spitting fire that lasts hours, and with four main stops 

8pm: several free concerts at plaça Cim d'Estela, including the hip and trendy 'The Tyets' 

Sunday – epic finale of La Patum with plaça de Sant Pere 'on fire' 

12pm: 'Patum de Lluïment', a similar event that takes place on Thursday at midday. It is a rather relaxed parade of most of the customary figures where dancing is central, with music by Cobla Ciutat de Berga 

9.30pm: La Patum ends with a high as the epic celebrations of Thursday night are repeated on Sunday evening. It all happens at plaça de Sant Pere, a small square that can get packed with up to 6,000 people, expect to barely move during the whole night 

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