Gracia Street Festival
A question not often asked is ‘what occurs when you combine 200 years of tradition with egg boxes?’ Well if you want to find out then potter along to the historic Gracia Street Festival in Barcelona this month.
Just over a century ago this funky ‘barrio’ of the Catalan capital was but a sleepy settlement, far from the chaos of the then walled Barcelona. In fact, some of the wealthier residents of Barna proper, often popped up to the municipality for a weekend of fresh air and relaxation.
A spot of background for you. Cities, towns and villages across Spain all hold a ‘Fiesta Major’ once a year. (most manage quite a few other parties too) They are usually in celebration of the local patron saint. However, those settlements devoid of a religious role model, not wanting to miss out, adopt a sort of ‘if you build it, they will come’ party philosophy and hold one anyway. (not much encouragement needed to down tools and grab a beer on the Iberian peninsular)
Gràcia is one such place and so in the balmy summer of 1817 an eight-day party was declared and the local folk didn’t need asking twice. The now famous ‘Festa Major de Gràcia’ was born.
Everyone Is Invited
During the latter part of the 19th century Barcelona burst out from its Romanic cocoon and spilled out into the surrounding area. Gràcia was absorbed by the expansion and the hither too ‘local party’ was now a draw to all the surrounding new founded districts who still hadn’t got organised enough to hold their own annual celebrations. As you can imagine, after having almost 100 years to perfect the perfect party week Gràcia didn’t disappoint and people from all over the city enthusiastically embraced the revelry.
To this day the Gracia Street Festival is the biggest ‘barrio’ party in the city, only usurped by La Mercè, Barcelona’s official Festa Major in September. Admittedly it is now part tourist attraction which seriously swells the attendance, but the locals, to their credit, generally ignore the visitors and still concentrate on winning the much-coveted title of ‘best decorated street’ and having fun.
Each year the number of bedecked boulevards varies but generally there are between 12 and 15 streets in full on ‘fancy dress’. Local associations, ‘collas’, plan their adornment strategy like military units and the dark months of winter are whiled away building all manner of papier-mâché figures and ingeniously designed hanging ornaments out of anything they can lay their hands on. A week before kick-off, fervent decorating sweeps Gràcia. Once completed, the obligatory bar and stage are added and everyone is ready to party.
For the record, the upper bit of Carrer Verdi seems to win on a suspiciously regular basis and the best spot for live music is Plaça Rovira.