Catalans (Països Catalans) - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. For centuries, the Roman Catholic church has provided the dominant belief system, while also being an important actor in Catalan society. This identification of the Catholic church and Catalan culture has been weakened by industrialization, secularism, and cultural contact. Most Catalans are Catholic by baptism and observe other Catholic life-cycle rites, but many do not practice regularly. Only one-third of those in Spanish Catalonia identified themselves as Catholic in 1988. Jews lived in the area until their expulsion in the early modern period; synagogues and mosques are now found in Barcelona and other metropolitan centers as a result of recent immigration. There are also active Protestant and evangelical communities, the latter including many Gypsies. Religious leaders are generally specialized males, but Catalonia also has many men and women in religious orders in schools and charity work as well as monasteries and convents.

Ceremonies. The religiously based calendar, now secularized and politicized, includes: New Year's Day (January 1); Reis (Epiphany and distribution of gifts, January 6) ; Carnestoltes (Carnivals); Pasqua Florida (Easter); Pasqua Granada (Pentecost); Sant Jordi (feast of Saint George, the patron saint, April 23); a group of primarily summer festivals of fire and fireworks—Sant Josep (feast of Saint Joseph, or "Falles" in Valencia, March 19), Sant Antoni (feast of Saint Anthony, June 13, in Balears), Sant Joan (feast of Saint John, June 24) and Sant Pere (feast of Saint Peter, June 29); Dia dels Difunts (Day of the Dead, November 2); and Nadal (Christmas, December 25). Sunday is the general weekly holiday. Saints and apparitions of the Virgin Mary figure in regional and local cycles as well as folklore, legend, toponyms, and personal names.

Arts. Catalan culture is one of the richest in Europe, traceable to the artistic, architectural, and literary golden age in the Middle Ages and early modern period. Urban, elite, and educated culture has coexisted with folk traditions to the present. Urban culture declined in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it revived in the nineteenth century with the growth of industrial wealth. Catalan expression, however, was limited by Francoist repression. Well-known figures from the Països Catalans, important in development of local and international culture, include: Ramon Llull, Ausiàs Marc, and Ramon Muntaner in early writings; Salvador Espriu, Vincente Blasco Ibáñez, and Llorenç Villalonga in contemporary literature; Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso (formative period) in painting; Antoni Gaudí, Aristides Maillol, and Josep Lluís Sert in architecture and plastic arts; and Pablo Casals and Montserrat Caballé in music. Folk traditions of note include music and dancing, especially the sardana, a Mediterranean circle dance that has become a national symbol; gastronomy and wine; ceramics; and various forms of textile design.

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