WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL HOLIDAYS
Like every country and every place, Barcelona also has traditional holidays. Some, like Easter, are well known and others are very specific to Barcelona or Catalonia.
You can find out more here. Maybe you are in Barcelona at the time or want to plan your trip accordingly!
PROCESSION OF THE THREE KINGS
The parade honoring the Three Kings takes place every year on January 5th. The “Magos”, as they are known here, arrive at Port Vell (the old harbor) on their ship. They depart the ship after landing and begin a long parade through the city. Their train moves past cheering crowds of old and young alike, throwing candy to the children all the while.
The children then awake to find their presents delivered on January 6th – presents which, according to local lore, are brought by the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus. Truly a magical night!
By the way, January 6, Epiphany, is a public holiday in Catalonia. That day we ate Epiphany cake (tortell de rice), with a king figure baked in (if you have it, then open the crown) and a bean (if it’s in your piece, you have to pay for the cake!).
When: January 5th
Where: port and city center
March / April
In Barcelona, Easter is celebrated for an entire week. The first important day during this holy week (Semana Santa) is Palm Sunday, when the Padrinos (godparents) give woven or decorated palm leaves as gifts to their godchildren.
There are several Easter parades in Barcelona and the surrounding area, usually featuring participants carrying statues of Jesus and Mary to their respective churches or cathedrals.
On Easter Monday, the Padrí (godfather) gives his godchild a “Mona”, a cake creation made of chocolate or fruit, often decorated with eggs, chicks and feathers.
When: Semana Santa begins on April 10th (Palm Sunday) and ends on April 18th (Easter Monday) 2022
Here’s something for you romantics out there. On Holy George’s day (in Catalonia, his name is Jordi), Barcelonians celebrate their version of Valentine’s Day.
This is where Jordi’s story comes in: He was a dragon slayer who, according to legend, got rid of the threat to the city. The dragon demanded a virgin sacrifice every year, and when the next sacrifice was to be the King’s own daughter, Holy George happened to ride into town, and he slew the dragon. The dragon’s blood seeped into the ground, and a rose bush grew from it.
April 23rd also happens to be Day of the Book, which led Catalonians to combine the two and create their own kind of Valentine’s Day. The city is littered with flower and book stands, all centered around the Rambla Catalunya. On this day, women are usually given a rose, and men receive a book.
When: April 23th
Where: Rambla Catalunya, Metro L3/L5 Diagonal
June: Corpus Christi
L'OU COM BALLA
What on Earth are the Dancing Eggs of Barcelona?
On Corpus Christi, the feast 60 days after Christ’s ascension from the dead, Barcelona plays host to several unusual scenes. In some fountains throughout the Gothic quarter, you’ll see eggs dancing on streams of water. Eggs which, almost miracle-like, never fall down! The Catalan people call this spectacle “L’ou com balla”, which has been around since 1637, and they use the occasion to place beautiful flower decorations on Barcelona’s fountains. Back then, the dancing eggs were real, but nowadays they are made of Styrofoam or similar material.
But why, you ask, would anyone join this strange tradition at all? Nobody really knowns, to be honest… Maybe it was just for fun? Or perhaps the egg has a deeper meaning, representing the circle of life, with all its highs and lows? Or the passage of time? It’s a mystery… The most reasonable explanations are linked to Holy Communion – to give thanks, and to represent rebirth.
When: Starting Corpus Christi and then for 3 days
Where: Gothic district around the Cathedral La Seu and within its courtyard
Sant Juan - Nits del foc
Once a year, Barcelonians celebrate the beginning of summer with a large feast. This feast also coincides with Saint John’s day (named Juan here). The people of Barcelona combine the two by creating large bonfires of old furniture and other things they no longer need all over the city, symbolically burning the old, and jumping into the water in order to cleanse themselves. Children and adults alike play with small and large fireworks (this replaces the lighting of fireworks for the new year).
The festivities culminate at the beach with a large party, music, drinks, and the midnight jump into the sea.
When: June 23rd, with June 24th being a public holiday
Where: Main celebrations from Barceloneta beach all the way to Bogatell. The fire is lit on the Arc de Triomf square.
LA DIADA - NATIONAL HOLIDAY
The Diada Nacional de Catalunya, the National Day, also known as L’Onze de Setembre (The Eleventh of September), is celebrated every year on September 11th, to commemorate the surrender of Barcelona on September 11, 1714 in the War of the Spanish Succession. As a result, Philip V. abolished the old self-government of Catalonia, which had gone back to the Crown of Aragon, with the establishment of a centralized state in Spain based on the French model.
September 11th is now Catalonia’s national holiday and is not intended to commemorate a victory, but rather this painful defeat and the subsequent oppression of Catalonia and its culture. An important (central) memorial on this holiday is the square at Fossar de les Moreres, right next to the church of Santa Maria del Mar, where many of the city’s soldiers who died in 1714 were buried.
In recent years, La Diada has also been increasingly influenced by the independence movement. Many Catalans take out their flags, decorate the balconies, wear t-shirts decorated with their symbols of independence and meet in different places to exchange ideas and to demonstrate.
When: September 11th
Where: All over Barcelona. A specific place is usually designated as the main event, but regardless of that designation, the Arc de Triomf and the Placa Sant Jaume will always have something to offer.
Every village and town in Catalonia has a Fiesta Major (main festival), which is a village or town festival, so to speak. This day is usually celebrated on or around the day of the city saint. Barcelona is no exception.
A 7-day festival is dedicated to the city saint Mercè. The diverse program consists of dance, music, acrobatics, the Castelleres (human towers), the Gegants (giants made of papier-mâché) and the Corre foc (the fire walk – be careful here!).
So there is a lot going on in the city! You either consult the program that changes every year and look for something specific, or just let yourself drift through the city center. You’re bound to come across an activity that gets you hooked!
By the way, the individual districts also have their Fiesta Major with their saints! The districts of Gràcia (mid-August) and Sants (3rd week of August) stand out, where the inhabitants decorate certain streets beautifully. Every year, the most beautiful street is chosen as the winner.
When: around September 24 for 7 days.
Where: the whole city but mainly in the historic center for the Mercè.
Text and image rights: © Céline Mülich, 2021 – 2023
With the support of Jacqueline Glarner