Barcelona Carnival or Carnestoltes is one of the most popular festivals of the year. It’s a time of joy and debauchery before the 46-day Lent leading up to Easter. The festival started last Thursday, known as “Dirty Thursday” or “Greasy Thursday” as a day of gorging. During this time every year, the city enjoys afternoon snacks of sausage eggs, masked dances, and parades.
Over the weekend, parades of men and women in costumes and disguises danced to the beat of drums as observers clapped, shimmied, and joined in on the fun. Exuberance filled the air, and music blared in the background. The large street parades continued on like this, covering different parts of the city.
This is an exciting time for people here because, under Franco’s rule, the celebrations were banned. At the end of his dictatorship in 1980, people made up for those years of no festivities. And because of this, there’s also a mix of history and traditions for the locals. But besides the nostalgia, the festivities are an excuse to have one last blowout party before the period of “suffering” begins.
Our neighborhood rained confetti as little girls swept the shiny papers off the ground and into their little hands to take home. And with some children and adults dressed in costumes, we saw Luigi, Spider-Man, clowns, witches, and Pokemon characters walking around the streets. As outsiders, it looked like a hybrid of Mardi Gras and Halloween to us.
Tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, the Carnival ends with a traditional ceremony in which sardines are buried to symbolize the beginning of the fast. This is all interesting for us to observe as outsiders because for those participating in Lent in the States just involves fasting and giving up meat. Here, it’s a big party just to prepare people for the occasion!