Halloween, for the Rest of the World

One of the many Sitges costumes

On Sunday, I travelled by train to Sitges, a small beach town just south of Barcelona. This weekend was Carnaval and for that Sitges is the place to be. The best thing I can liken it to is Halloween in West Hollywood.

Carnaval is a much bigger holiday in Spain than Halloween. Although people know what Halloween is, most people don’t celebrate it. When I went out for Halloween, I’d say only one in ten people were dressed in costume. Carnaval, on the other hand, feels much more like Halloween in elementary school, where everyone is dressed as something, including the adults. It was fun to walk around this weekend, as I saw a great variety of costumes.

Army Costumes

These costumes are much more elaborate and creative than the ones I see at home. You don’t find very many mass-market frocks that were purchased at a ‘Carnaval’ shop just before the festival. Though many are premade, even more of them are fashioned by the wearers themselves. Some of the adults have costumes equal or better than those you would find in an actual play or at Buffalo breath. And what I like even better? The majority of the costumes were about what you were trying to impersonate, not trying to find a way to be a ‘slutty’ nurse or ‘slutty’ policewoman, or ‘slutty’ cat, etc.

Man in drag on the plane crash float

Each town has it’s own Carnaval parade, with floats and a procession of people in costume. If you want the craziest, the one with the biggest party and the most energetic, you want to go to Sitges. As this is a well-known gay spot, you can imagine that things get a bit crazier there than anywhere else. I don’t know why, but for some reason men dressing in drag never fails to be funny.

The parade in Sitges was more along the lines of those in Brazil, with the Las Vegas show-girl type of costume. The most scandalous were still less so than those in Brazil, though part of this may be due to the cold weather. The parade lasted for a least 5 or 6 hours. It began sometime after 9, and didn’t finish until 3 o’clock in the morning. During that time, the entire parade wound around the ancient white-washed city, through the small cobblestoned streets, dancing and keeping on. I was a bit worried that I might miss the parade, until I found out it didn’t stop. And that the floats seemed never ending as I stood in the cold for two hours watching it go by!

Brazilian-Type Carnaval Costume
And yes, people did use cell phones while in the parade

Getting in and out of Sitges is a bit of a fiasco, but the local governments seem to have a pretty good handle on the situation. There were special lines set up for purchasing tickets. Station workers were posted to deal with any problems and extra trains were running. Upon arrival in Sitges, the police pointed you through to an exit, where someone would check your belongings for anything dangerous. They arranged it for efficiency. The way home was a bit more of a hassle, as there was an incredibly long line to get back on the trains. Luckily, it didn’t take as long as we thought. Once again, they had special barriers set up so that there wasn’t a stampede to get to the platform. It was orderly and calm. I was quite impressed. Especially because of all of the drunk revelry that had been occurring.

Now, to get to the fun part. I was dressed in my now standard David-Bowie-in-Labyrinth costume. My accomplice wore normal clothing with a top hat. We don’t know why, but everyone loved the top hat! I did the best I could with my pocket camera while my SLR is out-of-service. Here are some photos of my favorite costumes:

Some water polo kids from Sabadell we had an awkward conversation with.
I don’t think they were used to girls initiating conversations. Or maybe it was just the state of my Spanish.

A Caterpillar

A Bunch of Grapes

One of the floats had an exercise theme. Each participant wore a full body suit with “details,” workout gear, and ugly masks. The float itself was a changing room, where you could watch people changing costumes, including catching people fully “nude.”

Some of the workout/plastic surgery junkies.

The Changing Room

And back to your regularly scheduled participants:

My people. Self-explanatory

One of the clearest photos I took


Each float come equipped with its own bar or alcohol cupboard

Only in Spain will you find people in a parade openly smoking, drinking, and using their cell phones. And in a country that has nude beaches, it isn’t so unusual to see an array of ages and body types in the more scandalous female costumes.

And likely only in Europe would this she/man
not be too traumatizing for children

Categories: Barcelona, Holiday | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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