One of the best ways to live authentic experiences in Barcelona is through its festivities and traditional celebrations, amazing moments filled with concerts and activities for all.
If you want to get to know the history of Barcelona and learn more from up close about its culture, we recommend that you visit the city during one of these very important dates, the fun is assured.
Celebration of La Merce in Barcelona
The story tells us, that the night of September 24th 1218, the Virgin of La Merce appeared to King Jaume I and several religious leaders of the city. She asked them to create an order of monks to save the Christians who were incarcerated by the Sarracenos (Muslim people that conquered the Iberia peninsula).
Several years later, in 1687, the city suffered from a severe locust plague. The townspeople pleaded to their matron Virgin, Santa Eulalia, for the plague to stop but it persisted.
It was then that Barcelona asked the Virgin of La Merce to end the plague. When the plague actually ended, the city council named La Merce as patron of Barcelona, considering her co-patron together with Santa Eulalia.
These celebrations in Barcelona began to take place in September 1902, becoming the main festivities of Catalunya and an example to more festivities to come.
With the years gone by, La Merce has become the most important and meaningful celebration in Barcelona, highlighting Catalan culture in all its expressions. Street art, parades, concerts, traditional dances, circus, fairs, and many more activities take place all around the city.
Since a couple of years back, the festivity of La Merce in Barcelona inspires itself and pays honor to a cultural capital city from around the world. In 2018 it was Lisbon, in 2019 Beirut, in 2020 Habana, and we will see which cities are represented next.
The official day of the virgin is september 24th nonetheless, the festivities usually happen days before depending on the calendar of the year.
Celebration of Santa Eulalia
Same as La Merce, the matron Sant Eulalia also has her very own celebration in Barcelona.
Due to the dates of this celebration, February 12th, it is considered the main festivity of winter in the city.
Even though it is inspired in a very old and interesting legend of a young Christian martyr, this celebration is relatively new. Oriented primarily to cater to the families and children, it includes parades by the traditional giants, correfocs, sardanas, castellers, and other manifestations of popular Catalan tradition.
Click here to get more information about the festivity of Santa Eulalia.
Since a couple of years back, within the celebrations of Santa Eulalia, we also have Llum BCN, a night festival centered around the illumination of public spaces and buildings in the Catalan capital.
Sant Jordi in Barcelona
This celebration in Barcelona is based around the legend of Saint Jordi, or Saint George, patron of Catalunya since 1456.
The legend says that in the Villa of Montblanc appeared a dragon who terrorized the townspeople and caused lots of damage.
To soothe the fearing dragon, the town would chose one person who would have to go and be eaten by the animal. One day it was the turn of the king’s daughter and everyone feared the worst.
It is then when the brave knight Jordi appeared, ready to confront the dragon and free the princess.
The knight defeated the dragon, saving the princess, and from the spilled blood sprouted beautiful red flowers.
Catalan history also tells us about the knight Jordi, who under the orders of the emperor Diocleciano, refused to persecute the Christians, therefore being tortured and decapitated. Becoming later a venerated martyr, appearing many more fantastic stories about him.
[Did you know that the facade of the famous Casa Batllo of Antoni Gaudi was inspired in this legend? Learn more about the wonderful works of Gaudi in this other article]
The central elements of this celebration in Barcelona are culture and love. Culture is represented by books and love by roses.
Tradition calls men to gift a rose to women and women a book to men. The custom of gifting a rose has turned this date into something similar to valentines day. The tradition of book giving was pushed by the Catalan editorials in the beginning of the last century.
Thankfully, year after year, this gift exchange has transformed into something less “sexist”, books and roses are given to women and men alike.
During these dates the atmosphere and streets of Barcelona are filled with literature and romance. It is a celebration very rooted into Catalan culture, the city looks beautiful, full of color and aroma of roses.
The exact date of the celebration is April 23rd. Read more about it here.
Celebration of Sant Joan in Barcelona
From all the celebrations in Barcelona, Sant Joan is probably the most intense and wild party.
A popular and very rooted celebration in many towns in Catalunya. This festivity consists of fire, music, dance and very well organized street festivals.
The origins of this festivity is for many a mystery. Celebrated in the eve of San Juan Bautista’s birth, for some it is related to pagan rituals not Christian, such as summer solstice, determined by the longest day of the year.
The biggest celebrations in Sant Joan take place in the beaches of Barcelona. We recommend you take precautions, as this tends to be a party with lots of excesses.
[Get to know the Barcelona beaches in this other article]
In Barcelona, the day of Sant Joan is on June 24th, therefore the party is the night of the 23rd.
Similar as around the world, carnival is the time of the year to celebrate while transgressing customs. It constitutes a spontaneous exercise of individual and collective liberty.
You may find several acts of celebration in Barcelona during these days, with beautiful visual and traditional displays (for example the traditional giants of Catalunya).
A few kilometers from Barcelona, in the town of Sitges, the carnival takess different form. It is famously known as one of the best carnivals in Europe (may not compete with the traditional carnival in Brasil but it has nothing to envy from it). Offering colorful parties with an amazing atmosphere, expressing individual freedom (Sitges is well known as a gay-friendly city). Definitely worth to visit!
As you have seen, there is more than one opportunity to enjoy one of the many celebrations in Barcelona. The Catalan capital knows how to party and aside from these traditional festivities we also have the popular neighborhood celebrations and an excellent nightlife and leisure offer.
If you are going to visit the city and want to stay in central accommodations and meet people that will take care of you and make sure you have the best experience in Barcelona, do not hesitate to contact us. We have private apartments, for couples and large groups of friends and families, and shared dormitories in our youth hostel.
See you in Barcelona!