A reference guide to Catalan fiesta terms
The Sardana is a very old dance, which is truly Catalan, although some say that it is Greek in origin. It is an open dance that can be joined and left again at any time. It is danced in a circle, holding hands up in the air and coordinating the steps in accordance with a complex set of rules.
You’ll see much of this in Tossa in the Paseo del Mar or in one of the squares. Throughout the year there are around eleven celebrations involving this dance!
Take the Sardana Virtual Tour (Broadband) (Dial-up)
The Sardana is performed to the tune of a typical band of ten musicians playing traditional wind instruments. The band is called la Cobla.
Havaneras are the fishermen’s songs that were brought back from the Caribbean colonies by Catalan immigrants in the 19th Century. Named after the Cuban capital Havana, these delightful ditties are sung in four or five part harmony and accompanied by guitar, accordion, and bass. They have an impulsive and natural feel to them and are usually accompanied by piping-hot Ron Cremat.
The brew contains rum, lemon peel, sugar, coffee beans, and possibly a cinnamon stick. It is prepared in an earthenware bowl and set alight, stirring occasionally until it is ready to drink.
In Tossa there is usually a nighttime Havanera recital in June, accompanied by several bowls of Ron Cremat, set out on tables on the beach at Es Raco at the foot of the Vila Vella.
This is one of the most spectacular of the Catalan festivals and must be seen. It is an old tradition of the Tarragona region, which has now spread to many parts of Catalonia, and has become a real spectacle that attracts a huge audience.
Teams of enthusiasts form impressive human towers – castells - which can be up to ten people high.
Forming a castell is a complex task of organisation and perfect timing. A square of strong men with linked arms forms the base of the structure, then lighter men and women climb into their shoulders. Concentration is etched in their faces, as more lighter and smaller people climb up, increasing the storeys. Finally, the ‘anxeneta’, a young boy or girl, clambers bravely to the top, some 10 metres above the ground, and lifts one arm to show that the castell is complete.
Immediately after this, the castell begins to unravel - everyone getting down safely is a vital part of the operation.
The Castellers are not usually seen in Tossa, but you may see them on a day trip to outlying villages, or look out for them on the television while you are there.
At Christmas you will see these popular seasonal plays.
The anthem of Catalonia, meaning ‘The Reapers’.
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