The origin of the name Carnival
From the Latin ‘carne’ meaning flesh/ meat and ‘vale’ meaning goodbye. "O flesh, farewell!” a phrase to encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival.
Why is it on when the weather is so cold?
Carnival is a festive season which always occurs immediately before Lent. While its starting day varies, it usually ends on Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent.
Traditionally, during Lent no parties may be held and many foods, such as meat, are forbidden. The forty days of Lent represent the time Jesus spent in the desert where, according to the Bible, he endured temptation by Satan.
So it seems quite natural that people should enjoy street parties, dressing up and generally celebrate before they fast.
The Sitges Carnival is one of the most important dates in the community of Catalonia. Folk dances and xatonada (traditional local cod salad of Sitges) are also characteristic elements of the carnival.
The two important moments in the carnival of Sitges are the Rua de la Disbauxa the (Debauchery Parade) on Sunday night and the Rua de l‘Extermini, or (Extermination Parade) on Tuesday night. Some 50 odd floats and 4000 participants slowly make there way through the narrow streets watched by 250,000 onlookers.
Who organises Carnival?
There are around 25 groups that are affiliated to El Retiro and 25 to El Prado (social clubs in Sitges). Although there is no official competition for the best group/float in the parade, there is a fierce rivalry between the two factions. The King of Carnival (Carnestoltes) and his group are always from El Retiro and have always existed. The Carnival Queen is a relatively new addition and is always from El Prado. Some traditionalists from El Retiro don’t recognise the Queen as an official part of carnival. The two are usually organised completely separately and that is why sometimes the themes of the King and Queen don’t compliment each. For example in 2005 the King was a vampire and the Queen a cat!
Who will become King and Queen?
Both have to be Catalan and usually born in the town. Every summer any group who would like to be King or Queen for the following year have to pitch their ideas to the Retiro or Prado committee. The King's group, especially, is kept a big secret. Nobody, except a select few from El Retiro, knows the theme or who the king will be for the following year. In fact most groups are highly secretive as to their ideas and themes.
It would be a big faux par to give away any information regarding your group’s costume, music etc for the up and coming parade.
How do I get to be in the Carnival Parade?
A question we are always asked! Well you really need to know someone who is already part of a group (Colla), they will then have to invite you to join the group. Leaders called Caps de la Colla, who run the groups, have the final say. Some groups are highly choreographed, so you must also remember that you may be expected to attend rehearsals sometimes twice a week in the months leading to the parade.
How much does it cost to be in a group?
The cost varies according to the group. Expect to pay anything from 50€-350€ depending on the costume and type of group. Some of the money goes towards the building of the float (caroza) and some of course towards the booze, which is usually stored in the float.