La Mercè weekend was definitely one of the biggest highlights and most fun times I had while studying abroad in Barcelona. Heck, it’s one of the best weekends I’ve ever had in my life. Now that I’m thinking about it, every weekend I’ve spent abroad has been awesome. I’ve had so many firsts here in Barcelona, and studying abroad has given me a great opportunity to embrace myself in the local Spanish and Catalan culture. I’ve been able to try new foods, participate in new traditions, improve my Spanish, and see beautiful sights. La Mercè weekend was a great example of being able to observe and participate in new traditions.
La Mercè started on Friday, September 24th. Museums had free entrance and there were various activities happening throughout the day. The first activity that I attended was the drummers, as seen in my selfie. They played rhythms loudly while moving in pre-planned motions, including swinging a drum stick above their heads and stepping left and right at certain times. They were always in sync with each other. It was a very unique experience to watch.
Shortly after, my friends and I observed the giants that walk around various places throughout the city. These giants could only be carried by one person, however they are very heavy. Someone would lift the giant up, enter from the bottom, and hold the giant on their shoulders. If you see the giants walking around, you can take pictures with them and interact with them. At one point in La Mercè weekend, all of the giants lined up near Plaça Catalunya and walked in a straight line down the street in parade fashion with music playing in the background.
That same night was the festival of fire. My friends and I dressed in long sleeves and pants, as recommended, because the sparks of the firecrackers can hit you during the festivities. It was a truly fascinating night. We arrived to the festival of fire just as they were starting team entrances. The designated area for the festivities to take place was the same street that the giants all walked down together. Spectators can watch from the boarders set up along the street. When a team entered the area, they would play their custom team rhythm or song with drums. They all had their unique individual colors and designs as well. After all of the teams entered the area, the festival of fire started, and we were able to witness the many combinations of firecrackers, with many times the sparks hitting us. It was unlike any other experience I had before and I was glad to experience it with my friends there too.
The streets were packed every night of La Mercè with people just enjoying the holiday. You can walk around the streets and find large groups of people dancing to music, mingling, or just relaxing with friends. On Sunday night it was the finale of La Mercè weekend. My friends and I went to Plaça d’Espanya to see the fireworks. We got there early and as we waited for the fireworks to start, the fountains in Plaça d’Espanya turned on one by one as the signal that the fireworks were going to start soon. The fireworks started and we had a great view as they were right in front of us. Throughout the show we saw a wide variety of fireworks. The grand finale was spectacular and there was something particularly noticeable about how it ended. Instead of ending the grand finale with a barrage of booming fireworks and a sudden stop to signal the complete end, like in the United States, there was a barrage of booming fireworks and the barrage suddenly slowed down until the boomers were going off one by one until no more when off.
I highly recommend visiting Barcelona on La Mercè weekend to experience all of the fun and unique activities that you can’t experience anywhere else in the world.