Corpus Christi Festival - Sitges -2001

June 17


Corpus Christi Gallery

Our first experience at a local festa (festival) on Sunday night was great fun. We made it down to the Centre Vila (Town Center) for the Processo de Setmana Santa (Holy Week Parade) around 10 p.m. As one would expect, nothing was happening at the appointed time. We have accepted the fact that habitual lateness is the rule here, but persist in being on time just in case anyone else is. Folks were walking along, window shopping, dining and all the usual stuff that goes on at that time of night, so we did some strolling as well. A short distance from the Centre Vila is a fabulous Italian gelateria. Across the street, we noticed some locals sitting on a step in front of one of the buildings and said to ourselves “Aha, at least we’re in the right place!” So we ambled around a little more and came back to the gelateria for a double copa (cup) – every bit as delectable as in Italy – they sure know their food here. By the time we had finished, the street was fairly well lined with people and others continued to stroll down the middle. We found a cozy nook and waited. Then, in the distance, we heard the steady pounding of a drum.  

I must tell you at this point that for the past couple of weeks, around 10-12 at night, we have heard what we assumed to be fireworks being set off but were unable to see any flares on the horizon. It was drum practice! The guy who can best keep a tempo strikes the first blow, then (in theory) all the other guys strike their drums. It works fairly well, but when you make them walk too, it gets a little bit off the beat from time to time.  

A police tow truck preceded the parade. With their usual attention to the rules, people waited until the truck passed and continued crossing the street and milling around. Soon after though, the parade began. First in line was a big round jolly looking bishop flanked by a couple of priests carrying banners with the name of their church. The first of the LOUD drummers followed – we assume these guys were there so that everyone behind knew where to go and didn’t get lost along the route (which has probably been the same for the past 50-100 years). This is a very catholic country and a lot of their traditions are obscure to us, however, the theme of the parade was the “Crucifixion”. The parade had seven floats (on carts pulled by priests) that depicted each stage – from trial to internment. It appeared that each float was created by an individual church group and between the floats were people walking in two rows, single file and carrying long candles. Interspersed were a couple of marching bands playing dirges and, of course, more drummers. The whole thing took about an hour and wrapped up a little before midnight. Except for some tourists or during an occasional delay in the parade, everyone was very quiet and respectful. After they carried away the body of Christ, the final group wore the sacred heart and brought a float with Mary on it that was very elaborate. In general the floats were lavish with gold and luxurious fabrics, and some rather grisly corpus Christi’s. Once the parade had passed, many of the town folks continued to follow it down to the main square.

We, however, returned to our humble piso, poured a glass of 10-year-old brandy and snacked on some quesos nocillos (nut cheese) while watching oratorios on the TV. Of the 6 TV stations, only one did not have “holy days” broadcasts going. There were broadcasts from Rome and Sevilla and coverage from Avila to Zaragoza of events similar to our small festa. The biggest one in Spain is in Sevilla, very artistically done with “living” portrayals of Christ. The onlookers seemed very devout and were chanting and praying along, whereas here, people mostly just watched.