Barcelona has a calendar of festivals encompassing the most ancient traditions to the most modern, contemporary entertainments. Below is a list of festivals and celebrations held throughout the year in Barcelona:
5th January (12th night)
The Three Kings’ Parade, or Cavalcada, re-enacts the arrival of the Three Kings of the Orient with their retinue of pages, who travel around the city on carnival
floats laden with toys. In Barcelona the Three Kings always arrive by sea, and are welcomed in the harbour by the mayor and the city’s authorities, while the children look on, totally entranced. The Feast of Epiphany, on 6th January, marks the end of the Christmas season.
Week of 12th February
Barcelona’s winter festival, the Festa de Santa Eulàlia, is dedicated to all the city’s children. During the festivities, we pay tribute to Laia, the little girl who rebelled to defend her ideals. Barcelona considers Laia to be a symbol of solidarity, of the defence of justice and the commitment of youth and, together with the Virgin of La Mercè, she is the city’s patron saint. To celebrate, the festival offers a whole host of activities for all the family, including the parade of the Gegantes Laies, or Laia Giants, traditional folk dancing and correfocs for kids, when people dress as devils and set off fireworks as they dance through the streets
Dates vary between 1st February and 7th March.
The most popular and spectacular carnivals are held in the towns of Sitges and Vilanova i la Geltrú. In Barcelona, in addition to the traditional carnival parades, the festivities centre on the city’s municipal food markets, where the stallholders dress up and decorate their stalls for the occasion.
Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day), is a very special day throughout Catalonia, although it is not a public holiday. The main streets of Barcelona, and all the towns and villages in Catalonia, are lined with stalls selling books and roses which lend the day a festive, cheerful touch. Barcelona also plays host to a variety of cultural events in literary settings. It is customary to give a book and a rose as a symbol of friendship and love. In 1995, UNESCO declared the 23rd April “World Book Day”.
Night of 23rd June
The night of Sant Joan, Midsummer’s Eve, is the shortest night of the year and a hugely popular celebration which retains an extraordinary vitality and attracts the
crowds. The night that marks the summer solstice is a night of fire and firecrackers. People eat the typical coca, a special flat sponge cake topped with pine nuts and candied fruit. Open-air parties are held in different parts of the city, such as the Poble Espanyol.
The commemoration of the fall of Catalonia and Barcelona to the troops of Philip V on 11th September 1714, with the resulting abolition of Catalonia’s self- governing institutions, has become a symbol of Catalan nationalism. It is customary for people to hang Catalan flags (senyeres) from the balconies of their houses.
Week of 24th September
The celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Mercy were declared Barcelona’s main festival at the end of the 19th century.
The programme of events includes:
• Concerts and theatre performances at openair venues around the city.
• The Ball de Gegants (Dance of the Giants) and the Correfoc are two events featuring fantastic and mythical beings. During the Correfoc, a procession of devils, dragons and other infernal creatures makes its way through the main streets of the old town.
• Castells or human towers in the Plaça de Sant Jaume.
• Street food fairs featuring product tastings, such as wines and cavas, sausages and ham, cookery displays featuring local dishes, natural foods, etc.
• Community sports events.
• BAM (Barcelona Acció Musical): festival of independent and new music.
• BAC (Mercè Arts de Carrer): festival featuring performances by artists showcasing their latest works. The festival is held in the Parc de la Ciutadella and at Montjuïc Castle.
• Festival of the Sky at the city’s beaches featuring air displays and acrobatics.
• The festival ends with a pyromusical display on the Avinguda Maria Cristina set against the stunning backdrop of the Palau Nacional and Magic Fountains, marks the end of the festival
Christmas fairs and markets are held from the beginning of December until Christmas, such as the Santa Llúcia Fair, which takes place around the Cathedral, or the one near the basilica of the Sagrada Família. Here you can find Nativity scenes, figures for the crib, Christmas trees and all kinds of handcrafted products. Music also has a special place during the festive season. The Palau de la Música Catalana and L’Auditori are among the venues hosting Christmas concerts, and on New Year’s Eve large-scale parties are held around the city.
The sardanes and castells are two of the most important and deeply rooted traditions that still survive and draw large crowds in this cosmopolitan city. The sardana is a typical Catalan folk dance which is performed at all the city’s main festivals and on Sundays at different locations around the city
The sardana is one of the traditional dances which anyone can join in. Participants link hands and form a circle, marking time in a pattern of long and short steps, depending on the rhythm of the music. The music is performed by the cobla, a band comprising 11 musicians and 12 instruments: ten wind instruments; one string instrument, the double bass; and the tabor, which beats the rhythm and is played by the same musician who plays the flageolet, which signals the beginning of the dance.
Sardana displays held regularly in Barcelona:
Pl. de la Catedral
9th February-13th July and 14th September-17th November: Sat: 6pm
15th September-28th July: Sun and public holidays: 11.15am
Intangible Cultural Heritage
Castells are the human towers formed by teams of castellers (castle builders) in the streets and squares of towns and cities. The structure of a castell is a fusion of strength and equilibrium and comprises three sections: the pinya, or base; the tronc, or main core which is carefully assembled on top of the base, and the top section, formed by the youngest members of the team. The castells are measured according to the number of “storeys” or rows in the core and the number of people in each row. The colles, or performing groups, compete with one another to build the highest tower, which can be up to nine rows high. The most important displays of human towers in Barcelona are held in the Plaça de Sant Jaume on 12th February, the Festival of Santa Eulàlia, and on 24th September, the Mercè Festival.
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