A Fire Filled Weekend – La Merce

Once again it’s that time of year, La Merce.  And like last year, this is a festival that gets me really excited – it’s tradition reaches back hundreds of years and it is a celebration that is truly Catalan in nature.  From the gegantes to the castellers and of course, the correfoc, there are festivities for the old and young alike that last all weekend long.

According to the information I have from the schedule of events, the history of La Merce dates back to September 24, 1218.  It was here that “Our Lady of Merce – La Merce – appeard before King James I and Saint Peter Nolasco, ordering them to found the Mercedarian Order to free the faithful who were prisoners of the Saracens.”  It continues “This manifestation of the Vigin was made patron saint of Barcelona later when, in 1687, the city overcame a terrible plague of locusts after offering up prayers to her.  Nearly 200 years later, Pope Pius IX officially recognized La Merce as the city’s patron saint and the people of Barcelona began to celebrate Her feast, though the current format of programme featuring Catalan traditions was not adopted til the late 19th century”.

On Friday night we decided as a special treat for the boys we would take them to the fireworks display down at the beach.  Now normally at home, fireworks start around 9.  But not here, they don’t start til 10. And for kids that normally go to bed at 7:30 that was most definitely a stretch.  So we took them to dinner at CDLC, our favorite restaurant on the water and one with a great view of the fireworks.  As many of you may or may not know, restaurants don’t even open here til around 8:30, so you can imagine their mood by the time we got to dinner – hungry, tired and grumpy.  But they made it thru the meal, almost falling asleep at the table, and then they got to watch the fireworks.  Both agreed it was worth it.  And both fell asleep in the cab on the way home!

Waiting for Josh at the metro station – Aidan’s comment when we got off the train “weird, it’s still sunny at our house but it’s dark here”… I had to explain that the sun had set while we were on the train and yes, we were still near home…
Super excited about the fireworks!
My little pumpkin!
On Saturday we were supposed to meet up with one of Aidan’s classmates and her family but unfortunately it was raining pretty hard out.  I was all excited to wear my newly purchased rainboots, but the boys were having nothing to do with going out in the rain even if it meant not getting to see the gegantes and castellers.  In the end it turned out that the events were cancelled due to the rain, but it was a bummer nonetheless as it was something we really enjoyed last year.
So on Sunday, I was determined for us to get out of the house for more La Merce events.  We went down to Ciutadella Park where there was supposed to be members of the Bolshoi circus performing as well as many other kid friendly activities.  But alas, there were lines everywhere and tons of crowds, not to mention not a single stage we saw had any performances going on.  In the end, we made do with lunch and then the zoo.  A chilled out kind of a day since Josh and I had big plans for Sunday night – CORREFOC!!!
If you read my blog last year, you probably will remember the Correfoc.  Literally translated, it means FIRE RUN!  Yes, running with fire.  Ahhhh Spain, you amaze me with your liberal nature.  This is something that never in a zillion years (not even a million, seriously, would never ever happen) happen at home.  People in the streets with sparklers and not just any sparklers, but sparklers that are spinning on the ends of pitchforks or coming out of the mouths of dragons, and people dressed as horses and other animals.
We met up with friends at 7:30 and walked down to where the Gates of Hell were set up on Via Laietana.  At 8:30 the gates of hell are opened and the devils begin their run down Via Laietana and along the way they are running into the crowds of people.  Many people dance with the devils as their firey spray rains down on them.  My insane husband was one of them.  Yes, he was… and he got the majority of these insane pictures you are about to see.  I think we are lucky that none of us ended up in the emergency room or with any serious burns!
For the videos I took of some of the Correfoc, check them out here:
This is part of the opening ceremony before the Gates of Hell are opened for the devils to run thru!
This is when the Gates of Hell have opened and the parade of running devils begins!
Devils running into the crowds with fire!
The Gates of Hell in the background
Liquid Courage???
A moment where I dared to remove my hood!
My insane husband on the left in the green shirt with baseball hat is taking pictures right under the fire!  Wish I could have gotten a better shot of him!
I came home to sad news on Sunday night but in a way I’m thankful that I got to go to the Correfoc because to me, it’s a part of this living life to the fullest philosophy that I’m trying to embrace while I live here.  I don’t want any regrets when we go back about things we wished we’d experienced!  And this is a tradition that I will most definitely miss when we go home.  It’s something we could never do at home and it is truly a part of the nature of Barcelona and it’s insanity!!
Julie

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