If Barcelona has something surprising and unrepeatable, it is its neighbourhoods and its popular festivals. Many, though not all, force visitors to stroll through the neighbourhoods, but others, such as La Mercè, La Diada or Sant Jordi, saturate Barcelona with light, colour and festivities.
Here is a selection of some of them
La Mercè festivities
The festival pays tribute to the patron saint of Barcelona, to whom a number of miracles linked to the city are attributed.
Tradition has it that on 24 September 1218, Our Lady of Mercy appeared simultaneously to King James I, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Raymond of Peñafort and commissioned them to establish a religious order to rescue the Christians held hostage in Saracen lands.
Centuries later, in 1687, Barcelona was attacked by a plague of locusts and the people invoked the protection of the Virgin of Mercy. When the plague ended, she was proclaimed patron saint of the diocese, although she did not become officially so until 1868, under Pope Pius IX.6 In that year Barcelona began to celebrate religious and popular festivals in honour of the Virgin of Mercy, around 24 September.
It was Francesc de Paula Rius i Taulet who, as a councillor before becoming mayor, promoted the first La Mercè festival, which in 1871 took on a civic character and included popular celebrations aimed at the general public.
During the festival of La Mercè a multitude of popular events and celebrations take place in the streets of Barcelona.
The festival programme focuses above all on Mediterranean culture, and includes more than 500 activities to suit all tastes: from parades and concerts to folk dances and street theatre and dance performances. Among the many events that take place, we should mention the typical human castles, the parades of giants and big-heads, the Correfoc (costumed characters carrying fire and flares) or the BAM festival of independent music.
Here you can see the activities programmed for the Mercè festival this year 2022:
The Festes de Gràcia
The Fiestas de Gràcia, or Festa Major de Gràcia, is a popular festival held in the Gràcia district of Barcelona from 15 August and lasts between seven and ten days. Its most distinctive element is the ornamentation of the streets, but there are also concerts, popular dances, exhibitions of castellers, giants and big-heads, correfocs of devils and fire dragons, bastoners, trabucaires and other festive and religious events, such as the mass in honour of Our Lady of Gràcia.
Festivities of Sants
After Gracia comes Sants and for many it is a continuation of the previous ones and a great way to say goodbye to August. Here the streets also collapse above and below the street of Sants offering daytime and evening activities for all tastes, from popular meals to children’s activities, havaneres, popular music and much more.
The Diada or l’Once de Setembre is Catalonia’s bank holidays, commemorating the last defence of the Catalan people against the Bourbon army in 1714. The floral offerings at the foot of the monument to Rafael Casanova, the mass and the celebrations in Parc de la Ciutadella are typical. The doors of the Palau de la Generalitat are also opened, there is a flag parade, poems are recited and there are concerts, popular meals and a great atmosphere in all the streets of Barcelona and the rest of the Catalan provinces.
Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day)
The day of the book and the rose! Famous and eagerly awaited day that fills Barcelona with movement. Among the famous stalls on La Rambla and Passeig de Gràcia, which are just one example of the thousands and thousands of small stalls that are spread all over the city offering books, roses and the opportunity to enjoy a festival that is very much appreciated by everyone.
There are many other festivals that we have not yet mentioned here, such as the week dedicated to Santa Eulalia, several editions of the famous Holli or spring festival and celebrations in many places that recover that more local and popular spirit leaving aside for a few days the tourist side so prominent in them, such as the festivities of Sant Roc in Plaça Nova in the Gothic Quarter or the Festa Major de Sagrada Família.
And you, where are you from? What’s your favourite Barcelona popular festival?