The popular festivities of La Merce, the patron saint of Barcelona, take place on and around September 24th when there are typical dances such as “sardanas”, parades through the streets, important sporting events (e.g. sailing, regattas, judo, swimming, walking races), religious celebrations, etc. At the same time of the year there are also several exhibitions held including some of fashion, gastronomy and wine. In October a Second-Hand Book Fair is held in the Passeig de Gracia and there is also a Musical Festival, the Autumn Fair in El Tinell and several other fairs at the Trade Exhibition. In November there is All Hallows Day on the 1st and All Souls Day on the 2nd, and this is the time when typical cakes, known locally as “panellets” are eaten. Around Santa Llucias Days (December 13th) the typical crib fair begins in the vicinity of the Cathedral, and this goes on right up until Christmas. It is also the start of the opera season at El Liceu and the time for concerts at the Palace of Music (Palau de la Musica). These events continue for several months.
Christmas is traditionally celebrated at home with the family and with the newly-revived custom of “fer cagar el tio” (this consists of putting an object similar to a tree trunk into the fire from which presents then come out). Christmas dinner takes the form of “escudella” and turkey, “torrons” (a kind of nougat). New year is celebrated in bars, restaurants, and in the street where people wear fancy dress just like in the carnivals. As the clock strikes twelve they eat the twelve grapes in time with each chime.
In January the main celebration is the arrival of the “Three Kings from the Orient” on the 5th when there is a cavalcade, and the 6th when both children and adults receive toys and gifts. The Carnivals, held in February, are becoming more and more popular again after they were forbidden during the dictatorship, and St. Valentines Day (February 14th) is also increasing in its popularity. On March 3rd the popular festivity of Sant Medir is held in Grácia and there is a cavalcade and singing choirs. Holy Week begins with the palm fair which is held on Palm Sunday. It continues with the typical religious festivities and ends on Easter Monday which is pagan in origin.
The most spectacular festivities are held on April 23rd. These are the celebrations in honour of Sant Jordi (St. George), the patron saint of Catalonia. It also coincides with the rose and book festivals. In may a flower show is held, and on the 11th there is the typical festival of Sant Ponç held in El Hospital street by the city’s herbalists. A book Fair is held in the Passeig de Gracia in June and during the same month there is a Trade Exhibition in Montjuic, the Corpus Christi celebrations with the typical processions of “giants” and “cabezudos”, and the “l´Ou com Balla” (the dancing egg) which takes place in the fountain in the Cathedral cloister. The most important celebration during the month of June is undoubtedly the Eve of Sant Joan (St. John). This is celebrated both in private houses and in public places, and there is dancing and the typical “coca”, as well as bonfires in some streets and squares, and fireworks. The Eve of Sant Pere (St. Peter), on June 28th, brings with it the festivities associated with the summer solstice.
From the end of June onwards, the Festival of “el Grec” begins. This consists of a series of theatrical performances as well as dancing, concerts, and other cultural events. These take place either at the Greek Theatre in Montjuic, in the open air, or in certain other places in the city. There are also many sports tournaments and competitions as well as several trade fairs at the Exhibition Centre. July 24th marks the Feast of Sant Jaume (St. James) and is celebrated in much the same way as the Eves of St. Joan and Sant Pere. Around the Feast of the Assumption (August 15th), there are popular festivities held in the district of Gracia.
The last great summer celebration is that of the “Onze de Setembre” (September 11th). This is a national holiday in Catalonia and they hold various official and political ceremonies. However, there are many more celebrations held throughout the year in the city itself and in its different districts. These range from religious ceremonies to special lunches and dinners, processions and performances. The fact that there are so many traditional festivities held has led many people to say that Barcelona is one of the most traditionalist cities in Europe when it comes to celebrations.