Visit the cloister of the cathedral in Tarragona on the day of Corpus Christi and you will notice something usual: jumping up and down among the sprays of water of the centrail fountain is a dancing egg, one the most cherished features of this celebration.
Popular in many towns in Catalonia, the tradition of dancing eggs can be traced back to Barcelona in the 16th century and it’s a little magic trick that fill the worshipers with wonder. The egg is hollowed and sealed with wax before being placed on the jet of water on which it bounces merrily away. The fountain it self is decorated with cherries, ivy and seasonal flowers and people take turns to be photographed with the dancing egg in the background.
The celebration of Corpus Christi dates back to the 13th century, a time when the church felt in need to re-assert its authority following a surge of heretic and pagan practices; its answer was to to set in stone a new festivity in honor of the Holy Sacrament, something which medieval Catalonia heartily embraced and the most spectacular demonstration can be seen at Berga with the five days festival of La Patum.
Here in Tarragona, like at many other Catalan towns, the holy mass culminates in a solemn procession which mixes religion with other folklorist elements used in ancient times to narrate biblical stories to the masses. A minstrel on a mule beats the drums to announce the passing of the procession and he is followed by giants figures, used in ancient times as a narrative tool (they were build tall so that everyone could see them, even from far). The addition of the elegantly dressed El Negrito and La Negrita is a recent one and a reminder of the colonial past. Behind them comes the procession, carrying a large gilded float with the “Blessed Sacrament” in a circular route along the streets of the old city.