Carnivals are hugely popular all over Spain, and Barcelona is no exception. In Catalunya the carnival is called ‘Carnestoltes’, and will take place from February 16th – February 22nd

The Barcelona Carnival is celebrated with many big and small events all over the city. Each year carnival begins on a Thursday, and as this is the nominated day to start feasting in preparation for the Lenten fast, it is called ‘Jueves Ladero’, which simply translates as ‘Fat Thursday’. The markets in the city celebrate with food events and competitions such as tortilla-eating contests and free churros. It is also tradition that the organisation running the Barcelona markets, ‘Mercats de Barcelona’, award the best decorated stalls and shops in each market the traditional and much coveted award, ‘Pebrot d’Or’ or ‘Pimiento de Oro’ meaning ‘The Golden Pepper’.

The main character of the carnival, ‘el Rei Carnestoltes’, dressed in red and blue, also makes his first appearance on ‘Fat Thursday’. The King of the Carnival’s symbolic role is to represent the sin of power and to take responsibility for the bad events which have occurred during the past year. He appears at most of the parades throughout the carnival, until the final day when his effigy is burnt in a central square, marking the start of the last feast before the fast begins. His ‘death’ represents the end of the carnival and many older women of the community choose to wear black mourning attire in his honour for the entirety of Lent.

In previous years the central event of the Barcelona Carnival was a large parade called ‘La Gran Rua de la Ciutat Barcelona’, but in 2012 this part will not take place, as the municipal government wants to return to the historical roots of the celebration. ‘La Gran Rua’ has only been a feature of the carnival since the 1980s, and so this year, in the traditional fashion, there will be smaller local parades held in the different barrios, or neighbourhoods, such as Gracia and Barcelona’s old town, Ciutat Vella. Despite being on a smaller scale, the decorated floats and marching bands are expected to be just as impressive. Carnival is also a great time to visit Barcelona with children, as they can partake in the many fancy dress competitions and elaborate egg hunts.