Summer in Barcelona will not be summer without one major event: the festa major de Gracia.
So what is this “festa” about anyway? The festa (catalan for “fiesta” or “party”) major de Gracia is the big annual party of the Gracia neighbourhood. It is a free event where everyone can wander around the streets of Gracia and admire the detailed, intricated, well thought out decorations presented in some of them. The organisers provide maps that indicate the different attractions of the zone. Each street puts a lot of efforts into their work as they enter a fierce competition to win the prize of best decorated street each year. Yes, this party always occurs in august. This year, they were not so lucky as on the first day, it rained. But thankfully most of the papier mache artwork survived the week.
In the 3 years I have lived here, this is the most impressive neighbourhood festival I have witnessed in the city. Each neighbourhood of Barcelona has its own street fest. In this particular one, each competing street chooses a theme and no joking, standards are really high. I have 5 favourite ones this time: the Japanese street in Carrer Verdi, the Avatar street in Carrer Progres, the Art street in Carrer Mozart, the French street in Travessia Sant Antoni, and the corn field in Carrer Tordera, really simple but visually effective with all the lighted up corn floating in the sky!!!
My top one is the Japanese theme in Carrer Verdi though. They also won this year. We were drawn into it from afar and were caught into a wave of people eager to see it last sunday. First, we had to pass the japanese entrance gate, then there was the pink/purplish roof with all the lights and then we saw the long dragon floating to the other end. Two giant statues were guarding the back of the street. It is really well done!
During the week, there are also various events that celebrate Catalan culture. Two of them I really like:
- the “correfocs”or the devils parade with fireworks. The protagonists dress up as devils then light up flares and throw bangers in the streets. It is fun and it is more fun to go under the flares – a video will be up soon on my Facebook page. Everytime I watch a correfoc, the street makes me think of a war zone. That is because of the bangers noise, the sparkles from the flares and the smoke coming out of the whole set. Also because in order to protect themselves from the burning sparkles and the smoke, everyone covers their faces with scarfs and their heads with hoods. They do it for a good reason though. Last time I was dancing under the fireworks, I suffered from severe burns for three days and I had to throw my dress away. So make sure you cover yourself.
- the “castelleres” or human towers: these are impressive: first you have the strongest members at the bottom to support the whole structure, usually adults. Then smaller sized members go on top to form a pyramid (generally teenagers and kids). At the end, when they decide they are high enough a small kid climbs nimbly to the top, remains proudly up there for a few seconds and then climb back down as fast as he\she climbed up in the first place. I am always fascinated by castellerers with the strength and sense of unity demonstrated by the whole group. Plus this little kid that is not afraid of heights…it is pretty risky up there…
During the week, there are also various shows and concerts happening at the despair of those who then have to spent sleepless nights for 7 days (and go to work in the morning…). Us, we came to enjoy. During the fest, you can dance in the different squares to lindy hop, to lambada, depending on the DJ. There are also street food and beers available everywhere. We used to get mojitos and beers then walk around, then buy more drinks, then stop in front of a band every now then keep on going on like this until the end of the night!
The party is over now but the festa de Sants has started this week end so let’s keep the party going!
PS: I put up more photos of the Festa de Gracia on my Facebook page, here!