Festa Major – Barcelona’s biggest festival of the year
For many Barcelona residents, the main highlight of September is the festivities that accompany the feast day of La Mercè, one of the city’s co-patron saints. With summer holidays coming to an end and temperatures very gradually cooling, these four days of fun towards the end of the month make it much easier to return to day-to-day life. Since 1902 the day of La Mare de Deu de La Mercè on September 24 has been celebrated as Barcelona’s Festa major (lit. main festival, and nowadays there’s a packed programme of free events and activities for all that begins on September 21).
La Mercè, as it’s commonly known, is an enticing mix of tradition and modernity. That means that on the one hand you can enjoy typical Catalan cultural customs such as the correfoc (a ‘fire run’ that sees participants dress up as devils carrying sticks with fireworks spinning on the top of them; bold, and well-protected, members of the public dance alongside them in the midst of the sparks, smoke and explosions), castellers (the human tower makers who clamber onto each other’s shoulders as they try to build the tallest ‘castle’ possible), and parades of gegants (giants) and capgrossos (big heads), which in reality are large scale paper mâché figures that represent historical characters and fantastical creatures. And on the other, the extensive BAM music festival that offers free concerts across the city, family-friendly activities, and a wide-ranging fair of local associations that fills Plaça Catalunya. Ciutadella Park is the scene for theatre and dance as well as art, music and other culture from this year’s guest city of Lisbon. And to top it all off in style, fireworks displays are held on several evenings of the festival, a tribute of colour, noise, and light to one of Barcelona’s most important women.