According to the legend, if you put your ear to the ground anywhere you are during Corpus Christi, you will hear the roll of the drum from La Patum festival in Berga. Every May or June (depending on the date of Corpus Christi), the streets and squares of Berga become the stage for one of the most impressive festivals in Catalonia. The event developed out of a religious celebration, probably dating back to the 14th century. The ancestral festival has adapted to modern times while still maintaining its essence.
The best way to take part in La Patum is to go there with a local person, who will explain the meaning of the music, the dances, and the characters. The same ritual takes place year after year, culminating on the Corpus Christi Thursday and the following Sunday. During the rest of the week, Berga enjoys the thrill of the festival with a wide range of activities for people of all ages.
To experience La Patum to the full, the best day to arrive is on Wednesday, when the festival is warming up. People throng the streets while the tabaler drummer and the “giants” beat out the rhythm. In the evening, as you slake your thirst with the typical barreja (Muscat wine and anisette) or mau mau (red vermouth and soda), you will have the opportunity of seeing the first dances performed by some of the participant groups. This is just a taste of what is to come.
Corpus Christi Thursday and the following Sunday see the two main events of the festival: the lluïment show at midday, and the full show at half past nine at night. On Plaça de Sant Pere, you can watch or join the performance and listen to the characteristic beat of the tabal drum. The lluïment is a family-friendly demonstration of dances, whereas the evening show is the real climax of the festival, when the main performances take place in an apotheosis of fire. An army of one hundred devils let off fireworks in all directions. While it is interesting to see the devils donning their outfits on Plaça de la Ribera, the one big unforgettable experience is to join the dance under the fireworks for three minutes at a time, and mingle with the crowds thronging the square.