Les Festes de la Mercè is an almost ethereal celebration of lights, fireworks and togetherness.
We at Festival Sherpa take pride in introducing our readers to the weirdest, strangest and yet, unsung and underrated festivals from the shiftiest crevices of the world. Ergo, we love discovering new festivals. And we love enthusing about them to you. Here’s this week’s fix of quirky for you.
One of the greatest things about Spain is that it’s a vast cauldron of cultural and traditional festivals. This is because most of the traditional festivals are celebrated in the honour of a patron saint. Therefore, each saint has their own festival. La Mercè is one such festival, celebrated in the honour of the Virgin of Grace (the Virgin Mary equivalent of Spain) annually. La Mercè marks the final week of summer in Barcelona, when the parties by the beaches are wrapping up. The effervescent atmosphere in the city during the festival is probably one of the best things about it. The entire city is engulfed in a carnival-like spirit, with blazing lights, happy smiles and extravagant performances at every corner. Over 600 live events are spread out across the city during the festival.
During La Mercè, Barcelona is truly fantastical. Each day of the festival is commemorated with its own parade filled with mythical characters, dancing giants, assembling and dissembling of remarkable human towers or castellers and traditional drumming. A spectacularly picturesque affair, Les Festes de la Mercè may seem a tad bit overwhelming at first, but makes for an incredible experience.
A prominent element of the festival is the parade with the giants that portray Barcelona’s saints. These parades are extremely popular and witness the involvement of thousands of people. In the recent years, Barcelona, which has always been a tourist attraction, has received tourist attention specifically for the festival as well. Travelers and locals alike clutter the streets, enjoying the free live-entertainment. Les Festes de la Mercè has been celebrated annually for over 300 years, growing with Barcelona, a merry festival with deep roots and a refreshing change from of Spain’s other traditional but unnecessarily violent festivals.
Another facet of this festival you cannot afford to miss is the correfoc events or the ten kilometer fire runs. A correfoc is a fire run. Locals participating usually dress in devil costumes or don red cloaks with wide rimmed hats and pitchforks that spew fireworks and sparks in a wide radius. Out of all the festivals, this is one you do not want to miss capturing photogenically.
La Mercè will commence on September 24, lighting up the Barcelona horizon with its arch-typical fireworks. This is one of those festivals that a traveler must visit at least once. Do subscribe to The Sherp to know about other such unique festivals.