A while back, I ended up in Barcelona on the same weekend as the Festival La Merce. Before that trip, I’d never even heard of this September event. My husband was traveling on business and I decided to tag along…
One day while Mr. H was out making deals, I took a taxi to Plaza Catalunya, because I wanted to visit (and spend money at!) Barcelona’s famous department store El Corte Inglés. A few blocks from the plaza, a huge crowd had gathered and the streets were closed. The taxi driver said I’d have to walk the rest of the way – and explained that the store was probably closed. At first I was disappointed.
Then I realized that something BIG was about to happen! And by big, I do mean gigantic.
Totally by accident, I got to witness the Gigantes of Barcelona! Yes, the Parade of Giants. I was alone in a sea of people and it was surreal. I hadn’t brought my camera (I was going shopping, remember), but as the huge creatures came lumbering and spinning down the boulevard, I pulled out my iPhone and started shooting.
What a strange and curious day it became. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, or at least like I’d eaten the wrong mushroom!
There were giant chess pieces, giant kings and princes, giant flamenco dancers, giant cavemen!
The streets were filled with cheering crowds. Children sitting atop their fathers shoulders were totally mesmerized. So was I.
Along with the gigantes came costumed dancers and people beating drums and others who stood at the edges of the crowd to help guide the giants. Each entourage would stop at various points along the parade route and the giants would do a laborious, swaying dance that seemed to stop time. And then the next group of hulking fantasy creatures would appear!
If you’re still looking for September events and you happen to be anywhere near Barcelona, don’t miss this. And if you can plan a trip to the city next year, do that!
I’ve now learned that the parade is just one element of an incredible annual festival called La Merce which happens every year near the end of September. You can keep up with the details using this link to a Barcelona event page, which updates the dates each year.
The festival began in 1902 and honors Barcelona’s Patron Saint Mare de Deu de la Merce. It’s sort of the official end-of-summer bash. And the giants are just part of the fun.
There’s also a Fire Run (Correfoc) – which seems to be throngs of people running through the streets with sparklers and fireworks, joined by fire-breathing dragons! (This would never pass the insurance inspection in America! Even the Barcelona tourist board suggests protective clothing, hats and eyewear!)
Then there’s something that involves building human pyramids, and there is traditional Catalan dancing…As far as I’m concerned, that sounds like a party!