In a town where there seems to be a celebration practically every week, the Festival de la Mercé is the biggest party of all!It is held in last week of September around the 24th (the official holiday) in honour of Our Lady of Mercy, who freed the city of a plague of locusts in 1637 and was then made co-patron of the city.The celebrations last for days and involve an extravaganza of music, parades, dances and fireworks!
The festival signifies a farewell to the summer and a welcome to the autumn; full details of the scheduled events are kept a close secret until close to the opening.There are essentially three different sections to the festival; the traditional and street art festival, the music festival and the air show.Activities relating to each area are celebrated throughout the entire city and begin about a week before 24th September which is a public holiday particular to Barcelona.
Traditional events that take place during the festival are famous throughout Spain and include a parade of giants, a casteller competition and a correfoc.The wooden giants represent kings, queens, nobles and popular village characters; they are carried through the city, and are often accompanied by musicians and large headed carnival figures.Thousands of people come to see the castellers in Plaça San Jaume so it is best to get there early for a good view!Castellers are human towers with a small child precariously balanced at the top; the children now wear helmets in a slight concession to safety.The correfoc (´fire run´) is the most hazardous element to the festivities and indeed there are
separate events for children and adults; firework and cracker throwing devils run down Via Laietana accompanying a fire-breathing dragon, mindless of spectators being covered in sparks!Other traditional events to look out for are public dances of the sardana (the Catalan dance), an outdoor circus in Parc de la Ciutadella (22-24 Sept) with clowns, jugglers and trapeze artists and also marching bands performing on La Rambla.
The music festival events are free and are organised at locations all over the city, most of them open-air, such as Plaça San Jaume, cathedral square and Rambla de Raval.
A relatively new addition to the September festivities is the air show and is a celebration of all things air-born! Activities include dramatic displays of everything from jets, helicopters and antique planes to hot air balloons and even kites and model aeroplanes. Events are held along the beach, at San Sebastian and the Forum.
Finally, if all that isn’t enough, don´t miss the massive firework display by the Magic Fountain on the final evening of the festival!
For further information, please go to http://www.bcn.cat/merce close to 24th Sept.