The Carassa de Nadal, the Saracen who spits out sweets at the Santa Llúcia Fair

01/12/2019 08:55 h

Esther Estela

A strange being strolls down the narrow aisles of the Santa Llúcia Fair; it’s not a Nan or a Capgròs [figures with giant heads], and it moves around on castors. And it’s appearance is a bit scary, with big eyes that move, a long beard and a gaping mouth. But kids love him, because he spits out sweets and other nice things. It’s the Carassa [Big Face], an integral part of the city’s Christmas celebrations. This unique festive figure represents a Saracen and reveals the evolution of a very old tradition, the “Carasses d’orgue” which would otherwise have disappeared.

In the past, these kinds of figures were placed under church organs, and it was the organists that made their eyes move and got sweets out of their mouths. Children crowded in and grabbed as many as they could. This was a deeply-rooted tradition in Catalonia until the middle of the 20th century, when they were removed because of the noise and commotion they caused in churches. The fact that they represented the decapitated head of a Moor, or Muslim, also contributed to the decision, because it was seen as an apology for xenophobia and racism. There were carasses all over Catalonia. Some notable examples in Barcelona were the ones in Santa Maria del Mar church, the cathedral – which dates back to the 16th century – and Sant Just, which can still be seen in the sacristy. But if you want to see a carassa in its original position, under the church organ, you have to go to Perpignan Cathedral.

Barcelona’s current Carassa de Nadal was recovered in 1988 by the Federació d’Entitats de Cultura Popular i Tradicional de Barcelona Vella, [Federation of Popular and Traditional Culture Organisations], which is still responsible for its appearance every year. It was created by the master image-maker Manel Casserras i Boix, who got his inspiration from the cathedral’s carassa. The carassa’s facial features and his clothing are representative of a Saracen. Since his restoration, he has only appeared during the December weekends before Christmas, at the Santa Llúcia Christmas Fair. Each day he is taken out by a different Ciutat Vella group, who make him dance to shawms and drums. During the rest of the year, he is on display in the Casa dels Entremesos.

WALKABOUTS BY THE CARASSA DE NADAL

  • Saturday 30 November at 12 noon. Stroll around the Santa Llúcia Fair and the streets of the Gòtic neighbourhood.
  • Sunday 1 December at 12 noon. Stroll around the Santa Llúcia Fair and the streets of the Gòtic neighbourhood.
  • Saturday 14 December at 12 noon. Stroll around the Santa Llúcia Fair and the streets of the Gòtic neighbourhood.
  • Sunday 15 December at 12 noon. Stroll around the Santa Llúcia Fair and the streets of the Gòtic neighbourhood.
  • Saturday 21 December at 12 noon. Stroll around the Santa Llúcia Fair and the streets of the Gòtic neighbourhood.
  • Sunday 22 December at 12 noon. Stroll around the Santa Llúcia Fair and the streets of the Gòtic neighbourhood.

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