Festa Major

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Street Party Sublime

Many cities, and often neighborhoods within cities, celebrate a festa major sometime during the year. Often it's the day of the patron saint, sometimes it's a celebration of a harvest, mostly it's a chance to decorate the streets and party the night away. We watched one of these in Tarragona (and visited one or two in Barcelona as well.) The mid-August Sant Magi festival is a water festival. We apparently missed the part where they spray everyone with river water in a main square in town. The larger festa major in Tarragona is the Santa Tecla festival and has fire as the main theme. This Festa Major Petita (translated, essentially to "little big festival") was big enough for us.

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Traditional dance
There are lots of performances during the festa major. Some take place on stages that traverse nearly all of the street. This one was outside the city hall and featured an array of traditional circle dances.
Staging the gigantes
The narrow streets are festooned with flags from one side to the other, and teams build gigantes, which are giant puppets, and cabezudos, or "big heads". Here they're being staged on their home street before the parade.
Dragon leading the parade
The parade is led by a correfoc or dragon, which spits fire at the bystanders. Often there are people around dressed in devil costumes (children look cute even with red horns and tails) and sometimes the town is decorated as a replica of Hell.
Gigantes in action
The parade winds through town, sometimes returning to streets it's already walked. The gigantes stop every so often to dance in their lumbering way with each other and to engage the crowd.
Brass band
Each pair of gigantes is accompanied by music fitting its theme. Sometimes it's a brass band, sometimes it's simply a drum corps. They're often dressed to match the motif of the gigantes.
Human tower
The climax of the evening is the spectacle of human towers. Technically called castells (castles), they're built in two phases. First, the strongest participants make up the pinya, or base. Then the rest of the team climbs up, forming a tower in a variety of shapes. The last to climb is a child or two, wearing polo helmets, and being as high as seven layers up. The base layer is unseen behind the crowd in this photo.