Sitges - Festa Major

August 22nd to the 27th, 2001



Festa Major Gallery

Our very first Festa Major literally started off with a bang! Although the festivities really started for us with a Ska concert on San Sebastian Beach a couple of nights ago, at high noon today in the Cap de Vila the Festa officially started with the explosion of large Morterets (petards) on this festival of the Sitgean patron San Bartomeu and (as the name implies) the major annual festival. We arrived at the cap de la vila (center of town) to see the Grallers (official band) playing sardanas. The entire center was taken up with circles of people dancing.

Just after two, the parade began. There were the group of gegants we had first seen at the Corpus Christi festival, followed by the Capgrossos (literally "fat heads") which are people wearing large papier mache heads who danced along to the music continuing from the bandstand. Next were the Diables (devils) which are people dressed in burlap that has been colorfully painted with medieval runes and carrying boxes, chests and poles armed with what we used to call "red devils" - loud firecrackers that spin and shoot sparks everywhere.

Between other groups of Diables, appeared the Drac (a fire shooting dragon), duelists (actually guys with heavy wooden bats that they rhythmically clacked against each others in mock battle), various marching drum groups who tried very hard to outdo the previous group in decibels, and the Moixiganga (a fire shooting eagle type bird with a golden crown on its head). The rest of the afternoon was Castellers, the Processo Civica parade, more sardanas and dancing.

A little after 11, we descended to the shore. As we approached, the mass of people thickened. It was clear that the 29,000 townsfolk had invited all their relatives down to join the 290,000 tourists in town for the spectacle to come. Restaurants were virtually empty, but from the edge of the beach, across the esplanade, across the street and across the sidewalk, it was full of people. There were the usual hawkers, cold drink stands, balloons and roasted nuts. Most noticeable, however, was the row of brightly lit boats a few hundred meters off shore. We concluded they must be there to watch the "Castell de foc" (fireworks).

We wove our way towards the Fragata beach on Passeig de la Ribera until we found a slightly quiet spot to stop out of the stream of foot traffic. Suddenly the lanterns along the beach went dark. There was a loud pop and the fireworks began. A full half hour of dazzling displays, loud pops and people cheering. About half of the display was launched from the point and the rest from the series of little boats. It was stunning. My favorites were a spiral up to bright cobalt bursts that disintegrated into sparkling silver fractals and a beautiful purple starburst that sent off fountains of silvery showers. There were giant bursts, and crowd pleasing extremely loud petards. When they were finished, the sea of people continued on to a variety of public dances and concerts on the beach.