th 14 July, National DayLa Fête de la Bastille or Fête Nationalecelebrates the storming of the Bastilleprison in 1789 and the beginning of theFrench Revolution of 1789. TheBastille was seen as a symbol of theabsolute power of Louis the16th’s Regime and its storming anddefeat represented a symbol of liberty.Bastille Day was declared a Frenchnational holiday in 1880, a celebrationof the birth of the Republic.Fireworks, dancing, and a lot ofcelebrating mark the event every yearthroughout France.In all villages and towns, there is amilitary parade, and in Paris it takesplace on the Champs-Elysées, in frontof the President.
Sant Jordi, April 23rd, Catalan festival, The book and the rose Celebrated on or around 23rd April, Sant Jordi is the Patron saint of Catalonia and the French equivalent of St George. According to legend, he met a dragon terrorising the inhabitants of a town, He wanted to eat a girl everyday. When it was the kings daughters turn,St Jordi rescued her. Then, the king and the whole population converted to Christianity in gratitude and roses grew from the ground where there was the dragons blood.Sant Jordi in the streets of Perpignan
At the end of the 19th century, Sant Jordi became a Catalan symbol as his struggle against the dragon was similar to the Catalan struggle for freedom. It became traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one and annual literary competitions were held to stimulate young people to cultivate, respect andSant Jordi in Argelès take pleasure in the Catalan literature and language, a tradition which inspired UNESCO to declare this date the International Day of the Book. Offer your lady a rose, buy your man a book in the streets of Perpignan on Saturday 21st April as bookstalls set up on the quai Vauban, place Gambetta, and place Arago, and towns and villages throughout the region. April 23rd was not only famous because of the legend of St. George, but also because it is the anniversary of the death of two great writers: CERVANTES and SHAKESPEARE !
Les Feux de la Saint-Jean & La Trobada du Canigou, June 23rdA lovely tradition to celebrate the Summer Solstice of St Jean around the 22nd June is the meetingof Catalans from both sides of the Pyrénées on the summit of the Canigou.Troops of walkers and representatives of villages and towns throughout Catalonia, meet up on thePlateau des Cortalets, where they set up tents and prepare for a sleepless night! The ultimate goalof the Trobada is to get up to the peak at 2,784m high, with bunches of wood to contribute to thehuge bonfire prepared on the summit. This gathering is known as the "Trobada" (a catalan wordmeaning "meeting" or "reunion").At midnight a flaming torch, kept throughout the year at the Castillet in Perpignan, is carried to thetop of the mountain and used to light a bonfire which can be seen all over the Conflent. The nextday, relay runners carry the "flamme du Canigou" down onto the plain to all the villages they passthrough on the way to Perpignan and in the evening, these flames light the "Focs de la Sant Joan"or "Feux de la Saint Jean", fires that have been prepared in towns and villages all over the region.With the arrival of the torch, and the lighting of the fires, the festivities begin.In Perpignan for example, this consists of music and dancing, fireworks and laser display, a giantscreen in front of the Castillet showing the procession of the flame and its presentation by runners,the traditional ceremony of the sharing of the bread (le partage du pain) with shepherds from theCanigou, son et lumière.......... but there is some kind of celebration in most towns and villagesaround the region.It is a night for celebration and an important symbol of the unity of the Catalan culture
The bunch of wild flowersThe arrival of the flame in Perpignan
Saint Côme and Saint Damien, September 26th ,Festival of Argelès-sur-Mer Every year, towards the end of September, Argelès-sur-Mer pays homage to its patron saints, Saint Côme and Saint Damien, twins and early Christian martyrs, who healed the sick for free. According to legend, Argelès was struck by plague in the 17th century, an epidemic which disappeared on 27th September 1652 - the feast of the patron saints - and on which day the population made a vow to carry In the church of Argelès out a solemn procession to honour them every year... A long weekend of different events and entertainment, sardanes, castellers, and bals, crashing to a grand finale on Sunday 2nd October with the parade through the streets of the Giants and Big-Heads (gegants i capgrossos.) from North and South Catalonia when more than 500 giants dance in the streets!
Gegants are enormous figures,sometimes 14 or 15 ft tall, withpainted papier-maché heads andarms. Dressed in traditionalclothing, they are built on a framewith a person inside, controllingthe movements as the giantdances and sways.Most towns have their owngiants. They usually appear incouples, often as king and queen,or some other important personfrom the town’s history, and goout during the patron saintholiday of the town (Festa Major)or on special days, and dance inthe streets with "big-heads" or"cap-grossos", smaller figures,with oversized heads, whoparody local characters and willoften carry a whip or pig bladder,to frighten the children!