La Mercè is the major festival in Barcelona since it’s the official city holiday. Once a year by the end of September, it takes place all over the city along its streets and beaches. This year is going to be from 19th to 24th of September.
This celebration has religious origins, and, according to the legend, dates back to 24th of September 1208. That night, the Virgin of Mercy (Verge de la Mercè) appeared to the king Jaume I and two more Saints, and asked them to create a sacred order of monks to save the imprisoned poor Christians, taken by the Saracen pirates and who couldn’t afford their ransoms. After that appearing, in the 17th Century, Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts and asked for the Virgin’s assistance. Once the city was released from the plague, the city council named the Virgin patroness of Barcelona, and since it was recognized by the pope in 1868 they have celebrated this annual festival in honor of the Virgin.
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The opening speech
Every year, this festivity is opened with the opening speech (Pregó de festa major) by an important Barcelona citizen, no matter what his or her occupation is. For example, it’s been made by some famous artists like for example Salvador Dalí, Miró, Tàpies, Pau Casals, Elvira Lindo, and, more recently, by the world famous chef Ferran Adrià. The 2014 year the opening speech was made by Núria de Gispert, the president of Parlament de Catalunya.
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La Mercè highlights
The Festes de la Mercè host a lot of big and small events all over the city which focus on Catalan culture, like for example traditional Catalan parades, fireworks at the beach, a 10 km run, concerts, sardanes dance, or acrobatic military planes show, among others.
The main traditional Catalan events that you will allways find during la Mercè are the following:
The correfocs are a fire run made along Barcelona streets, where groups of Devils (people actually dressed up like devils) spray fire, hand hold fireworks and run up the streets with dragon structures and drums.
The castellers, known all over the world, are human towers (castles), as high as possible, that show the importance of teamwork, since they all make a structure that is climbed by a child to its very top. This is an amazing sight, so don’t miss the chance to see it if you can.
The gegants (giants), also known as capgrossos, are a very popular parade, especially for children and to enjoy with the whole family, where huge papier maché giants, inspired by kings, queens and other nobles walk through the streets while spinning around and accompanied by percussion groups that give them the rhythm.
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Concerts and music festivals
Furthermore, during La Mercè festival you will be able to see some outdoor concerts and music festivals for free all over the city, in some squares and beaches, although the most important ones are usually done in the Forum Park (built in 2004 to host the Universal Forum of Cultures) and the old Estrella Damm Factory.
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You don’t have to worry about transport at all, because during the week of La Mercè the metro opens 24 hours, as well as lots of buses and the bicing service (city bikes), so you will be able to go anywhere whenever you want to.
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