It is easy to get lost in the rich program of the Festa de la Mercè, so for those interested in popular culture, I have made a list of recommendations. The first part, covering the days September 19-22, can be found in this earlier entry and here follow my comments on the last two days. The official program of la Mercè continues throughout next weekend as well, but the traditional part culminates and ends on the day of la Mercè, September 24.
The text within brackets in Catalan links you to the organisers’ road descriptions.
Tuesday, September 23
If you still have not seen how happily above all senior Catalans join the sardana dance, you can do so at 18.00 in the Plaça de Sant Jaume (Ballada de sardanes amb la Cobla la Principal de la Bisbal).
The background to the xambanga is said to be that the geganters – those who maintain and dance inside the giants – wanted some fun when transporting their figures to the parades and therefore started to put fancy dresses on them. This has since developed into a separate parade (Xambanga de Gegants), the craziest one during la Mercè. It starts from Plaça Àngels at 21.30 and goes through C/ Pintor Fortuny, the Rambla and C/ Ferran in order to finish at Plaça Sant Jaume at 23.00.
Wednesday, September 24 – la Diada de la Mercè
If you live or stay in the Barri Gòtic, on the day of la Mercè you risk being woken up early by people playing gralles (Matinades de grallers). The gralla is a Catalan wind instrument with a unique sound which my whole family has learned to love.
The blunderbuss shooters – easily recognised in their historical clothes and very Catalan barretines – were originally impoverished feudal lords turned bandits. They are being celebrated since many people did not consider them criminals but rather political heros. At 10.00 groups of them march in a noisy gala parade (Galejada trabucaire) from the Avinguda del Catedral to Plaça Sant Jaume.
Tradition has it that in the 17th century, the Virgin of la Mercè listened to the prayers of the Barcelona citizens and saved the city from a plague of locusts. The mass celebrated on her day, at 10.30 in the parish of the Blessed Virgin la Mercè (Missa Concelebrada a la Basílica de la Mercè), is one of few elements which remind us about the religious origin of the festa major tradition.
At 11.00, giants and nans perform dances in Plaça Sant Jaume (Matí de gegants: VII Mostra de balls de gegants) and then walk in a parade via the Rambla and the carrers Bonsuccés Elisabets and Montalegre to Pati Manning. At 12.15 in the Plaça de Sant Jaume, as soon as the mayor comes out on the balcony of the town hall, the eagle of Barcelona will dance, surrounded by giants (Ball de l'Àliga i dels Gegants de la Ciutat). After this, the mayor and other local politicians walk in a parade towards the Palau de la Virreina in the Rambla together with an entourage of dancers and fantastic figures (Seguici d'Autoritats).
At 12.30, in the Plaça de Sant Jaume five groups of castellers from different parts of Barcelona start assembling typically Catalan human towers (Diada castellera amb les colles locals).
From 18.00 until 19.30, a parade will move through the centre, from Plaça Universitat, via C/ Pelai, the Rambla, Plaça Sant Jaume and Via Laietana, to the Plaça de la Catedral (Cavalcada de la Mercè). Do not get scared away by the fact that the theme of the parade is ‘the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue’ – all short performances will be carried out by traditional giants, nans and other fictitious figures.
At 19.00, there will be sardana dancing in the Plaça de la Mercè (Sardanes amb la Cobla Ciutat de Girona).
At 21.00, a concert by a traditional Catalan cobla will be held in the parish of the Blessed Virgin la Mercè (Concert amb la Cobla de Sant Jordi).
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N.B. The links to address descriptions are removed once the activity has taken place ('aquest acte està caducat', in Catalan).
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