dijous, 31 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (VIII)...L'home dels nassos

- Desperta't, desperta't, o no veuràs l'home dels nassos! (Wake up, wake up or you won't see "l'home dels nassos"!)

- Com que t'has aixecat tard, ja no has vist l'home dels nassos! (As you have got up late, you haven't seen "l'home dels nassos")

When I was a child every 31st December my mother would give us her good morning with one of these two sentences -in other words, she would urge us to get up early or she would reprimand us for having got up late. She always said she had seen l'home dels nassos when she had gone out to buy bread and she wanted us to see him too. Literally, l'home dels nassos is "the man of the noses" and he has as many noses as days the year has.

I desperately wanted to see a man with 365 (or 366) noses on the face but the truth is that I never saw him. I thought my mother was lucky and every year I said the following year I would get up earlier so I could see him, but was never successful.

Then I learnt the trick: "l'home dels nassos té tants nassos com dies té l'any" (the man of the noses has as many noses as days the year has). How many days does the year have? On December 31st, the year has only one day, as there is only one day left! Everyone is l'home dels nassos the last day of the year!

In some cities, l'home dels nassos is represented as a capgròs (a papier-maché figure which has a big charictaturesque head with a big nose).

Different representations of l'home dels nassos, from creativity to tradition
(the third from the left is a

Note: this tradition is also found in other regions of Spain
like La Rioja, Teruel, Navarra, Burgos and Álava.

dilluns, 28 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (VII)...Sants Innocents

Who believed the news about the change of the National Day? Well, I have something to tell you...: INNOCENT!. You were "victims" of an innocentada and, of course, the piece of news is not true.

An innocentada is a joke or hoax one makes on December 28th. This day is called "Sants Innocents". Does it ring a bell to something you might know? April Fools' maybe? Yes, our "April Fools'" is in December!!! It is strange that in Catalonia, Spain and some Hispanoamerican countries this day is celebrated on December 28th when in many other countries in Europe it is done on April 1st. I must confess that when I learnt about that, it made no sense to me. "Why on earth do they have to celebrate on April 1st?" I thought. Then I realised that the different ones on this were us.

The origin of Sants Innocents is religious and it comes from an episode in Saint Matthew's gospel. This episode narrates how Herod ordered his soldiers to behead all children younger than two years of age (not guilty, innocent human beings -from here the name "Sants Innocents") so he could also kill the newly born Jesus, and thus the child could not dethrone him as the king of Jews. Many children were killed but Mary and Joseph could save their baby, as they were warned by an angel in a dream and they fled for Egypt to hide.

You probably might be thinking that there is nothing to joke about this. Sure, there is not. But the relationship with jokes and hoaxes with this infanticide lies in that while Herod's soldiers were executing their cruel order, parents would try to mislead them, so their little children would not be killed.

Nowadays, the tradition of making innocentades is very common. On 28th December there are always hoaxes about recent news (usually very obvious to avoid panic) on national newspapers, local radio stations and, within the family and groups of friends, all kinds of jokes are made. My mother is very keen on doing innocentades. How many 28th Decembers she suddenly awaked me very early to tell me there was someone asking for me on the phone...! She always caught me. I am really really naïve :P. But this year I was in Barcelona as I had to work and I escaped the threat :D!!!

And, finally, as Catalans (I think that this is not done elsewhere) are not satisfied with joking we hang llufes on people's back. Llufes (or llufa in singular) are simple paper dolls usually made out of newspapers' paper. As I have just mentioned, they need to be hung on people's back. The only rule in doing this is that the hanging has to be unnoticed by the target. As a child I used to cut llufes and try to hang them on my mother's back as revenge, but as being like the invisible man is not one of my skills, I usually had to content myself by sticking them on the walls. All this explains why, after clicking the link on my last post, you found one virtual llufa. A picture of it stands for "Innocent, t'ho has cregut!" (You fool, I have mislead you!). Nowadays the tradition of llufes is losing a bit of track. I do not really know why, as it is a funny way to call you: "innocent!".

With nothing more to say today, I leave you this "happy" man and his llufa. Watch your back out!

Urgent piece of news

It is everywhere today. Next year, Catalonia's National Day won't be September 11th any longer. It has been unanimously approved in the Catalan Parliament that it is high time for change: from now on our National Day will be on December 19th, the day Barça achieved perfection by winning the sixth of the six trophies in play for the team.

Click here to learn more about this. It will surprise you.

My personal thoughts on this tomorrow. I am still too shocked to think.

dissabte, 26 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (VI)... - Sant Esteve

Empty a corner in your stomach, because there will be another familiar lunch today. That is what is done on 26th December in Catalonia, Valencian community and Balearic islands. In Catalonia we called it Sant Esteve, as it is St. Stephen's Day today. In Valencia, it is also "Sant Esteve" or " Segon dia de Nadal" (2nd Xmas day) and in Mallorca, it called "Segona festa de Nadal" or "Sa mitjana festa" (The middle feast). Browsing on the Internet, I learned that in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, St. Esteve is also celebrated and known as Boxing Day. However, as far as I have read, the festivity's celebrations are different from those of St. Esteve in Catalan-speaking areas.

Canelloni, the traditional dish for St. Esteve

By tradition, St. Esteve's lunch is celebrated with the family whom you haven't spend Christmas day with. In this way, all members will have eaten with everyone in the family of both the mother and the father's side.

The food usually eaten in this lunch are canelons de carn (meat canelloni) as main dish and pollastre farcit (stuffed chicken) or tallrodó (a kind of veal stew). Like on Christmas day, dessert is torrons (a kind of candy) and neules (rolled wafers).

Neules and torrons

Happy Sant Esteve!

divendres, 25 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (V)... - Bon Nadal!

It is Christmas Day. Bon Nadal a tothom! I guess today Catalan tradition is not really special: it is a family day. There is a big family lunch where everybody eats until their stomach is so full that the only idea of eating supper is difficult to digest. What is special in Catalonia on Christmas day is the food eaten, a dish called Escudella i carn d'olla (sorry, there is no translation for that). Well, at home, traditional as this dish might be, we do not eat it because it takes a long time to elaborate and my mother is not so keen on cooking and eating it -as far as I can remember I've eaten it only once.

But what's
Escudella i carn d'olla exactly?
Escudella is a kind of broth made out of carn d'olla, potato, cabbage and chikpea. Onion, leek, celery, carrot and garlic can also be added. Carn d'olla is a stew made of black sausage, white sausage, pilota (meatball), veal, lamb, hen or chicken and bacon. Pilota, an important part of the carn d'olla is a mixture of meat, egg, parsley, garlic and bread crumbs. Escudella i carn d'olla can be served all together or also in three parts: the broth, the carn d'olla and the ingredients used in the broth, as you can see in this picture:

Light dish, isn't it? hehe :D. And that is not all! Escudella broth is also characteristic for the pasta added: a special soup pasta called galets. There are small and big galets, the special galets for the escudella are the biggest one (they need to be cut to be eaten).

Big delicious galets

If you are brave enough to cook it, I found the recipe and some more interesting info in English here. Good luck :)!

Another typical thing to do on Christmas day is reciting a Christmas poem. Well, this is usually left for little children who have to stand on a chair while reciting and making gestures in consonance with them poem, and finalise it by saying: BON NADAL A TOTHOM (I wish you all a Merry Xmas). As an exception, I did that on my family lunch today but I won't show you a picture :P. What I will do is to write down a poem (in the short version) that has survived time and is still inside my memory.

Cançó de Nadal

L'escola és tancada,
hi ha llum al carrer,
la senyora Pepa
saluda el carter.
"Que tingui bon dia,
avui és Nadal,
estigui contenta,
Jesús ha nascut;
per dur-nos la joia,
al món ha vingut"
Bon nadal a tothom!

A Christmas carol

The school is closed,
there's light on the street,
Mrs. Pepa
greets the postman.
"Have a nice day,
it's Christmas today,
be happy,
Jesus is born;
to bring us joy,
he's come to the world"
I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

And the most important thing:

dijous, 24 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (IV)... - El tió

Let me be angry for one second: TAKE OUT YOUR SANTA CLAUSES OUT OF THE BALCONY! That does not mean I am against Santa Claus (or Father Christmas, called it as you like), but I am against him overtaking something genuinely Catalan. You might call me endogamic, but when it comes to our tió tradition I become very intransigent. I love this tradition because it is very curious. For me Santa Claus is a tradition elsewhere, I like it in its context and I enjoyed my visit to Santa's home in the Polar Arctic Circle some years ago. But once in Catalonia...I love the tradition of tió every Christmas eve with the family.

You might be wondering what on earth the TIÓ tradition is. The tió is a log which
...poops presents. So the TIÓ is...A POOPING LOG!!! Traditionally, they are consuming goods like food or drinks (usually related to Christmas time), but I dare say that this is no longer the case.

"Per fer cagar el tió" (To make the tió poop) the first thing to do is to have a good thick log and carve a mouth and a couple of eyes into the timber to turn it into a proper tió (if you cannot do so, just buy one with a painted face and a barretina). If possible, have the same tió every year. At home we had the same for years and I came to like the tió that my father had carved...it was something special for me, this piece of wood with carved eyes, neck and mouth. I really believed it actually pooped presents until I was old enough to know the truth. So, strange as it may be, I was quite disappointed and sad when my father decided to chop it into pieces and use our beloved tió as fire wood :(.

By the beginning of December, the tió is placed inside the house (it is very bucolic to place it near the fireside) and covered with a blanket, so it doesn't get cold. Then, it needs to be feed everyday to make it grow father with presents. As a kid, my father use to tell me that he had seen it eating and he would touch the tió's stomach and say it was fattening. I never wondered why I didn't see him eating...but I really believed it had and that it actually was getting bigger as the pooping day was approaching...:P

Finally, when Christmas eve arrives... the tió is hit with sticks and a song is sung along the hitting. Many versions of the song exist: long versions, short versions, mixed versions... Mainly they all ask the tió to poop well and good stuff. I post one version from Xesco Boix, which my father use to put us for Christmas:

To illustrate the tradition, I looked out for pictures in family albums. My father took some pictures of our first popping logs, but then he stopped. Thus the pictures I will show you are from Christmas 86, 87, and 88, i.e., when I was 2, 3 and 4 and my brother two years younger (my sister wasn't even born then).

Xmas 1986: Mum is teaching me how to make the tió poop.

Xmas 1987: my brother Jordi and I hitting the tió.
I am now master of the art of tió hitting and Jordi is my eager little disciple.

Xmas 87: Mama, que ha cagat el tió? (Mummy, has the tió pooped?)

Xmas '87: Me organizing tió's gifts

Xmas '87: Jordi and I can't wait to see what's inside the wrapping paper!!

Xmas 1988: Look how my brother looks after the tió!

Xmas '88: "Tió, tió, caga turró..."

This is my explanation of the tió. Of course, it is subjective and nostalgic. I had a good time remembering when writing. If you wish to read more things about the tió, see:
- http://euskocat.blogspot.com/2009/12/olentzero-and-tio-de-nadal.html
- Tió songs (in Catalan)
- Wikipedia

dimarts, 22 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (III)... - La Grossa

I can become really really rich today. But the possibility is so small (1/85,000) that, as every 22nd December, I will say: "Bé, el que és important és tenir salut" (The most important thing it to be healthy) or "Bé, almenys tinc salut" (Weeeeeell, at least I am healthy). Therefore, rather than National Big Lottery or "La Grossa" -Catalan- or "El Gordo" -Spanish- (literally "The fat one") it is the day of "Health" in Spain today. La Grossa is the most popular lottery in the whole of Spain.

The first prize, el Gordo or la Grossa, is 3 million € per series of tenth share tickets (i.e.: 300,000 € per ticket). There is also a second prize, a third prize, two fourth prizes, eight fifth prizes and "la pedrea", worth 100 euro per ticket. There also other minor prizes.

Considering that prizes are given per series, which are divided into ten
dècims (CA)/décimos (ES) (tenth share tickets) -which can be further divided into "participacions"- and that there are 195 series of each number imagine: a) the quantity of existing tickets in every draw and b) how much money the state gives away for the draw (2,142 million €) -in any case benefits are always higher for the State :P.

The draw's origin goes back to 1812, and it originally was a way for the state to increase its budget. Soon this became a tradition. In 1892 got its official Spanish name "Sorteo extraordinario de Navidad" (Extraordinary Christmas Draw) and from 1893 onwards it is celebrated every 22nd December.
The most curious thing about this draw is the way it is done. Students of the San Ildelfonso boarding school in Madrid aged 8 to 14 literally sing the numbers and the prizes. It is a very typical and characteristic melody and if you listen to it for the whole morning (like I did today) you can become crazy: the draw lasts 3h 30 min. Here you have a small sample from a previous year:

How was it like? (hehe) And this ONLY two minutes...

After the draw...

This year, as every year, I did not win a single euro and I lost 20 € in buying a dècim. 62,307 is not a lucky number...neither it was last year :P. Anyway...I am lucky because I am healthy :D. The only time I ever won anything was with some "participacions" my aunt gave me. I won 5,000 pesetas...so imagine how back in time that was...we still had pesetas, not yet euro. By the way 5,000 pesetas is the mega quantity of....30 euro!!! (I think I prefer to say it in pesetas...there are more zeros and it seems to be more money than 30 euro :P)

Not a lucky number this year

I think next year I might buy the number in "La bruixa d'or" (The golden witch) lottery ticket shop in Sort, a small village in the Catalan Pyrenees. The reason? For two years they were the sellers of la Grossa and the village name, Sort, is also the Catalan word for luck. Curious, isn't it?

diumenge, 13 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (II)... - La Marató de TV3

Today is a day of solidarity. Since 1992, the Catalan TV station TV3 collects funds for research on different diseases.

First of all I'd like you to think about what is a TV solidarity programme for you. And then, read about "La Marató de TV3".

What is La Marató:

For me, it is a great fund-collecting programme (I am amazed at the funds raised!). A special TV show is broadcasted, there are information campaigns on the chosen disease for the yearly edition, testimonials are recorded and invited to the programme, several activities all over Catalonia (and other Catalan-speaking areas) are organized, people in the Catalan public sphere get involved in it, and a book of short stories and an album with Catalan versions of English songs are published. So as you see, despite the fact that La Marató is an idea born in a TV station, nowadays it has gone far beyond the mere TV show and it has really engaged people.

It is possible to make donations by participating in the activities, buying the book or the CD, by making a bank transfer or by telephone. All the funds are given to research foundations.

2009 Edition

This 2009 edition is about minority diseases. As my boyfriend Xavi explains in his blog about science (in Catalan, so here you have the translation):

I'll only tell you that minority diseases affect very few people (one out of 2,000, even less in some cases), but globally there are 400,000 people who suffer minority diseases in Catalonia. This might explain the poor private investment dedicated to these diseases, and therefore public investment to study them is necessary. Usually, minority diseases have a genetic origin; that is why they have such a low incidence: natural selection prevents transmission of the causing genes. You can find more information on the show and the many minority diseases that will be addressed (including personal stories) in La Marató's web [English version] and their blog [only Catalan]. You can also become a fan in Facebook.

Although La Marató is held today, since the beginning of December, there have been sensitivisation campaigns mainly in the form of ads. I would like to share this year's ad, which clearly explains the goals of the show, although it does not have much relationship with minority diseases. The spot's slogan is "Hi ha persones que neixen per ajudar els altres" (There are people who are born to help other people).

I would also like to share two ads of the 2005 and 2006 editions, which I specially like:

2005 edition focused on Alzheimer and other brain diseases. The ad is just brilliant, with background music of the Catalan version of "All my life" by the Beatles. Two kids are recording daily life common sounds for their grandma who suffers Alzheimer to help her remember.

2006 edition addressed chronic pain. No need for translation.

To watch all editions' ads, click here and look at the section "Els espots de les anteriors edicions".

Finally, if you fancy a taste of how Catalan versions of English songs sound like, follow this link.

What about your area? Are there things like La Marató organised?

dissabte, 12 de desembre del 2009

Smell of Christmas (I)... - Aim

Again, December. Again, time for perfume, chocolate, watches, Nespresso (¬¬) and cava (the Catalan version of champagne), ultrafrozen seafood and toys ads. Again, decorated fir trees. Again, those typical street lights. Again, everybody seems to be happy. Again, tradition is the rule. Again, Christmas is approaching.

Catalonia shares many Christmas traditions with the rest of Spain, but it also have traditions of its own. My aim during these special dates is to write about all these traditions (both the shared and the unique ones). This will be my particular way to share my Christmas with you.

I hope you like it :).

dimarts, 8 de desembre del 2009

A casa (At home)

Let's do a little bit of basic vocabulary! Our vocabulary lesson today will be about the house, or "La casa" in Catalan. First of all, I'd like to make you note that "casa" is feminine in gender (therefore LA casa and not *EL casa) and that it can mean both "house" and "home". We have a word that means "home", which is "llar", also feminine, but we usually use "casa" instead of "llar" to mean home -except for the expression home sweet home, in which we use llar, dolça llar.

El rebedor

El passadís

El lavabo

La cuina


El menjador

El balcó

I have recorded all words but I cannot upload them on the blog unless I upload them first to the web. As I do not wish to do so, please, if you like to have the recordings so you know how the words sound like, just email me and I'll be glad to send them to you.

divendres, 4 de desembre del 2009

Per molts anys! - Thoughts after first birthday

One year ago I wrote a welcome letter and my blogging adventure began.

I had been thinking about creating a blog for months before last year but did not find a suitable thing to write about. And finally, one day the idea came up: what did I like that people could be curious about? My own land, my language, my culture: Catalan, Catalonia! I was astonished it did not occur to me before. And I loved the idea.

How did it come up? I was enraged about all the negative things about Catalonia coming from Spain, stereotypes, misunderstandings, intolerance, little respect for our culture and language, biased information. And I was also angry with the vision they give here in Catalonia about Spain. They fed me up and little by little I conceived how the blog would look like. I would talk about Catalonia, but I would not be political, I would not criticize and if I was or did, I would do it in a position of respect and always specifying that it was only my opinion and not something objective. I decided to talk about Catalonia and Catalan with the aim that people who would read the blog would become interested in it, telling them about art, language, food, history; everything I could imagine that would be related to it.

And so I wrote my welcome letter on December 4th 2008. As I am writing new insights, thoughts and impressions arise. I have realised that:

- I am not the prolific blogger I intended to be. However, I decided not to force myself. I am happy because I still have the will to write and write regularly.

- Writing about Catalonia and Catalan language and culture is not as easy as I had thought! Many cultural aspects that are obvious and logical to me because they are my baggage are not so for other people outside Catalonia and Spain. Thus, I often find that my posts are very long and that I have to explain everything from the beginning, so everyone can follow it and build their own opinion and share it. The balance between explaining and staying relevant is sometimes difficult though, as things are always intertwined!

- There are some posts that take me a long time to write, as anger and uneasiness arises. Then, what I have to do is leave the post aside for a while and the re-read it, check it is respectful and continue writing calmly. This is the case, for example, of the promised post about bilingualism, I have retaken it twice and still have not finished it yet.

- When translating songs or poetry, I have to decide if I should stay faithful or be creative to maintain the musicality. As a translator I am pushed to find a balance between the two, but it is not always easy!

- I am happy because my initial aim continues alive.

- I always have things to write about: new, old, future. It is a never-ending source! ;)

- I have more readers and followers than I thought I would have. I am glad to find people who have an interest in what I write and collaborate in the blog by commenting and giving ideas. Many many thanks. You really encourage me to continue writing. :)

And the surprise...

A song called "Anys i anys" (Years and years), that I used to listen to when I was a little kid. It was created by writers working for the child programme in TV3 called "Club Súper 3".

Anys i anys, per molts anys
a la una per molts anys
Anys i anys, per molts anys
a les dues per molts anys
Anys i anys, per molts anys
a les tres per molts anys.

Volem que súper t'ho passis
bufis fort i les apagui!

Anys i anys, per molts anys
A la una, per molts anys
A les dues, per molts anys
A les tres, per molts anys
A la una, a les dues, a les tres,

Years and years, happy birthday
one, happy birthday
Years and years, happy birthday
two, happy birthday
Years and years, happy birthday
three, happy birthday.

We want you to have loads of fun
blow hard and blow them out!

Years and years, happy birthday
One, happy birthday
Two, happy birthday
Three, happy birthday
One, two, three,


(Aside: Do you see? I am getting old...I'm always remembering good old times...I am nostalgic ¬¬)

I hope I can write many many more posts. Per molts anys, blog! (Happy birthday, blog!)

dimecres, 25 de novembre del 2009

Voluntaris per la llengua

My post today is dedicated to my mother, a "voluntària per la llengua"; a language volunteer in the capital city of my area, Figueres.

What is a language volunteer?
A language volunteer is someone who helps newcomers in Catalonia improving Catalan by giving them the opportunity to speak in this language in a natural context. Learners must have some knowledge of Catalan and volunteers have to be people who usually speak Catalan. Both should have a minimum of 1 free hour a week during 10 weeks. No BA, no MA, no certifications are needed: just the will to learn and to help learning.

Volunteers and learners or, simply "parelles lingüístiques" (language couples) meet, as I have pointed out, once a week at a place of their convenience. Some places (bars, restaurants, museums, etc) are volunteer-friendly and language couple might get discounts or special offers if they go there. A volunteer-friendly place will usually show this sticker near its door:

Besides meeting once a week to talk in Catalan, language couples are encouraged to take part in the cultural local activities promoted by the Consorci per la Normalització, Lingüística (Consortium for Linguistic Normalisation) which is the organisation in charge of coordinating the whole initiative.

Language volunteering is an initiative by La Generalitat (the Catalan government) to promote the use of Catalan. Though direct government implication in the programme began in 2003, the idea comes from university language volunteering, which began at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in 1996 and rapidly extended to other Catalan universities.

This is indeed a great way to promote Catalan, as opposed to boring, imposing language policies. Besides, volunteers and learners enrich themselves culturally and help the former see "the other" as an equal and the later can fully integrate in Catalonia, as the language will no longer be a barrier.

My mother became a language volunteer in March-April this year. She first was a volunteer for a very smart Moroccan girl until June and, since last week, she is a volunteer for a Colombian and a Polish girl. She is so happy people are eager to learn Catalan and she takes it very seriously. I believe she passed on this will to me too, as I am thinking to become a volunteer too! I just hope I find some free time ;).

By the way...my mother and "her" learners have become locally "famous" (just joking) because of this picture in one of the local newspapers in my area:
This is the main page of the local newspaper "Hora nova" (New hour).
My mother -in the centre- with the learners.

Hora Nova's main page taken from the paper's website
Voluntaris per la llengua official webpage: http://www.vxl.cat (only Catalan)

dissabte, 21 de novembre del 2009

Joan Salvat-Papasseit: simple is beautiful

There was a time, around the tenths of the 20th century, when Modernism gasped its last breath. Europe was shaking and art needed to reflect that: the time of the Avant-gardes busted out. They were a new form of art which was expressed in many different ways: Pablo Picasso chose Cubism; Edvard Munch, Expressionism; Salvador Dalí delighted the world with Surrealism, Joan Brossa tried new ways of linking sculpture and poetry, etc. And finally, Joan Salvat-Papasseit experimented in a new way of writing poetry called "cal·ligrames" or pattern poetry.

Joan Salvat-Papasseit was born in Barcelona in 1894. He came from a humble background and soon sympathized with socialism and anarquism. He wrote, besides social critique in Spanish and Catalan, beautiful and simple poetry. Unfortunately he was easily ill and died, aged only 30, of tuberculosis.

Although he didn't have a long life he left an imprint. His poetry is, as I have pointed out, usually simple and easy to understand; its plainness makes it survive across time. This is what makes it, in my opinion, wonderful and amazing: through easy words it is capable of creating very powerful images and awakening strong feelings in those who read it.

It is precisely for this fact that in the sixties Papasseit's words were recovered by Catalan songwriters of la Nova Cançó (the New Song) to raise their voice against Franco's dictatorship. What these songwriters did was putting music to Papasseit's poetry. One of his poems, "La casa que vull" was given music by the well-known musician Lluís Llach and, though I may not be able to fully appreciate it as I was born too late for that, I am sure its lyrics had enormous political power sang in front of an audience who claimed desperately for freedom.

Here you have the song and the lyrics:


La casa que vull,
que la mar la vegi
i uns arbres amb fruit
que me la festegin.

Que hi dugui un camí,
lluent de rosada,
no molt llunys dels pins
que la pluja amainen.

Per si em cal repòs
que la lluna hi vingui;
i quan surti el sol
el bon dia em digui.

Que al temps de l'estiu
niï l'oreneta
al blanc de calç ric
del porxo amb abelles.

Oint la cançó
del pagès que cava;
amb la salabror
de la marinada.

Que es guaiti ciutat
des de la finestra
que es sentin els clams
de guerra o de festa
per ser-hi tot prest
si arriba una gesta.


The house that I'd like,
the sea must see it
and surrounded
with trees and its fruit.

You'd get there through a path,
shining with fine dew,
not far from the pines
by the raindrops smoothed.

If I need some sleep
the moon will be shining;
and when the sun comes
he'll say me good morning.

And in summertime
the nest from the swallow
will be at the whitewashed porch
accompanying the bees.

I'd listen to the song
of the peasant digging;
I'd feel the salty air
from the deep blue sea .

I'd see town
from the window
I'd hear the buzz
of war and of feast
so I can get there
when something occurs.

As I have pointed out, Salvat-Papasseit is well-known and present in school nowadays. In fact, one of his book, "El poema de la rosa als llavis" (The poem with a rose on the lips) is a mandatory reading for students. Also, he is known for his "cal·ligrames" or pattern poetry: he made poems with shapes. He was pure genius -for me-, above all, with this poem:

LES FORMIGUES. Camí de sol, per les rutes amigues - unes formigues. --> THE ANTS. On the sunny path, through friendly routes - some ants. (It is a pity the rhyme is lost in English!)

Yes, it is so simple, but I would never have thought about creating it!

dimecres, 18 de novembre del 2009

La senyera

Four red stripes on a yellow background: this is the "Senyera" or Catalonia's flag, a symbol of identity with too many socio-political implications. But today I am only going to talk about its origin.

Legend says that the flag comes from the 9th century. At the time Catalonia did not exist as we know it today: the northern half was composed of different counties and the southern half was part of the Muslim Caliphate of Córdoba.

The story tells that Guifré el Pilós ("Wilfred the Hairy"), count of many Catalan counties, was helping the Frank king Carles el Calb ("Charles the Bald") to fight the Normans and was mortally injured. The king approached the count's deathbed, and Guifré asked him for a coat of arms. The king then soaked all his fingers but the thumb into the count's open wound, and pressed and moved them down on the surface of a golden shield, thus creating the emblem of the four stripes on a golden/yellow background.

This could be a typical picture to illustrate the legend of the Senyera

Real history is far from that. Only by knowing that Carles el Calb died some twenty years before Guifré el Pilós, one knows that the story cannot be true. Besides, sources say that it appeared for the first time in a XV century book.
The true history however, is not still clear. One thing is for sure: some bear a relationship with Guifré el Pilós (the legend had some truth in it after all!). One of the theories says that it has its origin in 878, when Guifré was invested count of Barcelona, whose symbol included the red stripes and the golden background. A second theory argues that it is a primitive coat of arms from the counts of Carcassone in France, who were descendants of Guifré el Pilós. And even a third theory exists, in which the origin of the Senyera is attributed to the Pope: red and yellow are papal colours and Aragon and Catalonia were his champions. Hypothesis left aside, what we now for certain is that the earliest proof of the Catalan coat of arms is a minting from count Ramon Berenguer IV in 1150.

As I have pointed out, Catalonia as such was not an entity in medieval times. First it was little counties in the north and part of Córdoba's caliphate in the south, then the counties united, afterwards, Aragon and the counties did so too and formed the crown of Aragon, later Muslims were expelled from the South of Catalonia and the conquest of Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia and the south of Italy began. It is for this reason that other flags in the areas I have just mentioned have the same basis as the Senyera. The four stripes on the golden background, representing the old crown of Aragon, also appears in the coat of arms which forms part of the Spanish flag, together with symbol of other old reigns in the Iberian Peninsula.

- The
Senyera at the beginning taken from http://www.kukuxumusu.com
(take a look at their webcards section!)
- To view images of the flags with the same basis as the Senyera,
visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senyera
- To view an image of the Spanish coat of arms,
visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coat_of_arms_of_Spain

dijous, 5 de novembre del 2009

Just for laughs (I)

I remember when I was learning English (many many years ago now) that I enjoyed lessons about idioms a lot. Not only because remembering them was a challenge that I like to take but also because at first and if taken literally they made no sense to me.

Later on, as I was developing my passion for translation, I discovered the playfulness of language and I began to find making literal translations of idioms (from Catalan into English and Spanish, or from Spanish into English)
extremely hilarious.

As today I had a very busy day and worked a lot, I want to have a good laugh, so I would like to do some literal translation here. I hope you have a good laugh to!

Ser un somiatruites > To be an omelette dreamer
(To be a daydreamer)

N'hi ha per llogar-hi cadires!
> You could even rent chairs with this!
(I can't believe it / this is incredible -in a negative context)

No sabeu el pa que s'hi dóna > You do not know the bread that is given
(You do not really know what is this about)

El més calent és a l'aigüera > The hottest things are still on the sink
(The most important things haven't been done yet)

Cada dos per tres > Every two per three
(Very often)

Fugir cames ajudeu-me > To run away legs help me
(To run away very fast from something -implies fear)

Ser més llarg que un dia sense pa > To be longer than a day without bread
(Something which is really long)

Estar tocat del bolet > To be touched by the mushroom
(To be nuts)

Ser un tap de bassa > To be a pool's lid
(To be very short)

Allà on Jesús va perdre l'espardenya > Where Jesus lost his shoe -or "espadrille" following the online terminolgoy centre Termcat
(In a place which is difficult to reach)

A la quinta forca > In the fifth gallows/hayfork
(Far far away)

Remenar les cireres / Tallar el bacallà > To mix the cherries / To cut the cod
(To be in a position of power)

These are just a few examples. If you find this funny, let me know and from time to time I might be posting funny or curious language things like this!

PS: By the way, in Catalan, the word idiomes, which is very similar to idioms in English means...languages! Idioms is translated as frases fetes ("done sentences").

diumenge, 1 de novembre del 2009


When I was a child I did not know what Halloween was about. In fact, I never heard that word until I began studying English at 10 and even then I did not understand clearly what exactly was. Things now have changed and Halloween is pretty common. However, what we celebrate in Catalonia on the 31st October and 1st November is La Castanyada and we eat panellets, which both fall under the celebration of "Tots Sants" or "All Saints Day".

La Castanyada
La Castanyada, consists in cooking and eating chestnuts. In Catalan, castanya is a chestnut, and "castanyada", means "eating chestnuts" (yes, we weren't very original in the naming...) Traditionally, the official date of this tradition is on the night of the 31st October, but you can do "Castanyades" all autumn long, until chestnuts' season finishes. You can cook chestnut in several ways -in the oven, on a pan in the cooker, etc-, but in my opinion, the best way to cook them in a special pan with holes in it on a fireplace (or barbecue) using a herb called "palla de vesc" which you gather on paths' borders. To properly cook them this way, you have to make a deep cut on the chestnut's peel so they do not explode and place them in a bowl of water for a while. This while is usually the duration of a proper meal. Then, you put the chestnuts on the special pan on the fire with some of the herbs. As the herbs burn, you add more. All the time you have to keep an eye on the chestnut to make sure they "sweat" properly (ie, they look wet) and keep moving them. After about 30-45 min they will be all black outside and cooked. Finally, you place them on a piece of cloth for a while and eat them, opening them by the cut. Be careful, they burn! They are simply delicious. Chestnuts can be accompanied by a sweet wine called Moscatell, typical from Catalonia and Spain or Garnatxa, also a sweet wine, from my area, the Empordà.

Els Panellets
On Tots Sants, 1st of November (today!), we eat a sweet thing called
panellets (no translation available, in literal English "little breadies"). The word might come from "pa" (bread) but panellets are sweet and do not bear any relationship with bread: they are in fact marzipan balls coated with pine kernels or smashed almonds. At home, my father is the "panellet maker". He uses a traditional recipe, which does not use current or sweet potato, which is an ingredient most people use to do them. I love these panellets, and yesterday I had a panellets-cooking session with him.

I made pictures and videos so you might try to do them :).
Here are the basic ingredients for the dough, according to the traditional recipe (my father adapted the quantities, so please if you want to make them, ignore the 3 eggs on the video and stick to the following quantities):

300 g of almond flour (or if you know how to do almond flour, 300 g of raw almonds)
2 eggs

250 g of sugar

(Text in Catalan: Per Tots Sants, Panellets. Per fer la massa dels panellets necessitem aquests ingredients: farina d'ametlla, sucre i ous // Text in English: All saints day, the day of panellets. To make panellets' dough we need the following ingredients: almond flour, sugar and eggs)

Elaborating the dough:
- Separate the eggs' yolk from the white.

- Whisk the eggs' white until they look like foam.

- With the sugar and a little bit of water, prepare some sugar syrup.

- Keep a little bit of syrup and mix it with the yolks.
- Mix the rest of syrup with the almond flour.

- Add the eggs' whisk to the mixture and mix again.

- Take the yolk-syrup and add it to the mixture, keeping a little bit for later on.

- Mix until the dough is homogenous and leave it rest 60-90 min.

(Text in Catalan: Ja tenim la massa feta. Hem reservat una mica de rovell amb almívar per "pintar" els panellets un cop estiguin fets // Text in English: We've already prepared the dough. We've kept a little bit of yolk with syrup to "paint" the panellets once they're ready to cook)

Coating the panellets:

- After the dough has rested, we can proceed with coating the dough.
- On different dishes, spread pine kernels, almonds and smashed almonds.
- Take small chunks of dough and make little balls with them.

- Coat the balls with the nuts.

- Creativity is allowed and panellets can be coated with coconut, or filled with quince jelly or mixed with hot chocolate to create chocolate panellets. You can do panellets of whatever you like (or think you will like)

Cooking the panellets:
- The oven must be heated some minutes before placing the panellets.
- Panellets must be placed on an oven plate, in which we need to spread some butter to avoid panellets from sticking on the plate.

- Once all panellets are placed on the plate(s), and just before cooking them, take the rest of syrup-yolk you left aside and, with a spoon, put some of the mixture on top of every panellet ("paint" them, as my father says).

- Place the plate full of panellets into the oven. Cook them for about 10 min at a temperature of 180ºC. IMPORTANT NOTE: as you may have realised, some measurements are vague (a little bit of this, a little bit of that)...sorry, this is how we Catalan/Spaniards work :P. And the cooking time of panellets is vague too: I wrote 10 min, but the best thing you can do is keep an eye to them and take them out of the oven when the yolk on top is a bit brown).

There is only one thing left to do now: ENJOY EATING THEM! Bon profit ;)

PS: If you try to make them, let me know or send me pictures :)

Special thanks to my father, the great panellet cook!