Here are a few of the things that will be going on in the city and that you shouldn’t miss:
8.30-12.00, Plaça Sant Jaume
The day starts with the nasal tones of traditional music played on grallers, traditional double reed instruments. This is followed at around 10.00 by groups of chaps dressed as bandits letting off their extremely loud trabucos or blunderbusses.Giants
At 11.00 the giants and capgrossos or bigheads fill the square and dance. This is an amazing sight and not to be missed.
At 12.00 the local politicians pay a visit to the Mercè Church and on their return they are met by the other beasts and bigheads who dance.Castells – Human Towers
At 12.30 there are displays of that wonderful manifestation of Catalan tradition and character, the Castells: lofty human towers built by and of teams of people acting together, as their motto says, with “strength, balance, courage and common sense”, to reach a common goal.
This truly moving and extraordinary spectacle was recently qualified as being among the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage Masterpieces. Teams from Barcelona give an exhibition in raising human towers up to ten storeys in height crowned by a small child, the enxaneta, who reaches the top and raises one hand with the four fingers extended to symbolise the Catalan
flag before climbing down the other side.
On Saturday morning, visiting colles or teams give a display at 12.00.Cavalcade
At 18.00, popular and traditional Catalan characters, accompanied by street art groups, parade down Pelayo Street, down the Rambla, up Ferran Street, across Plaça Sant Jaume and down to Plaça Ramon Berenguer.
Sunday September 25
20.30 Via Laietana/Avgda. De la CatedralThe Gates of Hell
One of the Festival’s highpoints and not to be missed by anyone who wants to witness a Mediterranean fire festival.
The Gates of Hell gape and troops of demons, devils and dragons rush out spewing fire. The frenzied local populace dances under the very flames and streams of sparks to the mad beat of the drummers flanking the gates.
This event can get very crowded and perhaps, for those more accustomed to more placid ways of spending a Sunday evening, a little unnerving. A few hundred yards down Via Laietana you’ll be able to enjoy the troops of demons, (but miss the gates themselves), with plenty more room in a slightly more relaxed manner.
Locals who dance with the demons come well prepared in thick cotton clothes covering the whole body, thick straw hats, neckerchiefs to cover the face and sometimes goggles too.
Synthetic clothing is not recommended.
There’s a kiddies version of this at 18.30.Fireworks
September 23 and September 24
22.00. Barceloneta Beach
Two fireworks displays from the jetty at the beach. The atmosphere is usually great here. So are the opportunities for pickpockets. Keep your valuables under strict control at all times.
Sunday September 25, Avgda Reina Maria Cristina. 22.00
This incredible sound and light spectacular closes the city’s festivities. The crowd fills the whole avenue and Plaça Espanya so get there early to get the best view of the fireworks and Magic Fountain. This year’s theme will play on the four recently re-installed columns by Puig I Cadafalch that stand behind the Fountain.Music
Friday September 23 and Saturday 24BAM Music Festival
This popular music festival features some of Catalonia’s best indie musicians as well as great acts from the UK and USA. BAM’s goal is to detect new trends and showcase emerging acts, and it’s always a massive success with locals and visitors.Mercé Music
Dance to local dance bands in the Plaça Sant Jaume, catch a Jazz gig in Plaça Catalunya, enjoy world music by the Cathedral or groove to electronic music at the Forum.
There’s too much music going on at too many great venues like the Plaça Reial and the old Damm beer Factory to list here so see: http://www.bcn.cat/merce/en/index.shtml
Saturday September 24
A lot of the city’s museums are free on the 24, while others organise special activities. These include:
Antonio Tapies Foundation
22 – 24 September
There are a great many activities during the Festivals including Dance and Theatre in the Ciutadella Park, including performances of Swan Lake. There’s a circus at Montjuic on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
You can find full details of the programme here:www.bcn.cat/barcelonacultura
Have a nice time and …Bring your umbrella
It always rains during the Mercè festival. It rains every year, without fail. This is why:
Barcelona’s first patron saint was, and is, Saint Eulàlia, she who was cruelly martyred by the Roman governor with thirteen tortures – one for each year of her life. She was canonised in 633, her remains lie in Barcelona’s cathedral, which is dedicated to her.
As the city’s patron, its inhabitants prayed to Eulàlia for divine intervention in all things and she never failed them. She is especially renowned for her miracles with water and one of her early miracles – before her martyrdom – is related to providing water and people prayed to her with special fervour in times of drought and when crops were threatened.
One day, in 1687, a plague of voracious locusts threatened to devour the city’s crops and the townspeople, abandoning their usual practice, prayed to La Mercè, our Lady of Mercy. The locusts retreated and the city, in its gratitude, named her co-patron saint along with Saint Eulàlia. Two hundred years later the Pope ratified the decision.
Gradually, Mercè’s festival gained importance until it finally completely overshadowed Saint Eulàlia’s celebrations, held in the glum month of February. So now, each year at the end of September, the city’s inhabitants delight in the city’s festival, the bands play, the dragons and devils dance gleefully in the streets, the fireworks light up the sky and Eulàlia, lonely and
abandoned weeps. Her tears fall as rain on Barcelona.
Peter is the Been there local for Barcelona. You can read his entire page here
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