Now I must be honest with you, I was undeniably a little upset before I came to Barcelona knowing I was going to miss Thanksgiving and a couple other holidays back home. When I’m at school in the states during the fall, I look forward to having a few sporadic days off and then having a whole week off for Thanksgiving. By then I am usually so burnt out from classes and my busy schedule and I am definitely ready to go home and spend time with friends and family. Here in Barcelona, I spend Monday-Thursday in back to black classes or at my internship until 10-5. Granted, having Fridays off is definitely convenient; however, I was still mentally preparing myself before I came “You can make it until Christmas, it’s going to be fine!!” I knew it was going to be a long, but fun and overall extremely rewarding experience.
On our second day of CIEE classes, one of my professors said “And this will be the last time I see you guys for a week, so enjoy your holiday and stay on top of your homework.” And I was in shock.
A Holiday?? What Holiday!!!
It turns out, El Dia Nacional de Catalunya was taking place the following week and seeing as it was a bank holiday, all classes (and internships in my case) would be cancelled. It was a day off for everyone! I had no idea what El Dia Nacional de Catalunya was, so I decided to ask my host mom. It originally started as a day to commemorate the loss of Catalonia’s laws and institutions after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714. However, as of recently, it is a way for Catalan people to protest past actions of the Spanish government and express their desire for independence from Spain. I was able to attend one of the demonstrations and it was such a unique experience. All ages were present, from small children to teens to parents to grandparents. And it was incredibly peaceful. There were chants and everyone got a little riled up at the sight of a police helicopter overhead, but overall it was incredibly serene. It was simply all types of Catalan people coming together to stand up for what they believe in and being able to experience it first hand is something I will never forget.
About two weeks later, my host mom asks me what I plan on doing during the upcoming weekend for La Mercé. And in my head im thinking...what the heck is La Mercé! Well, come to find out once again, it’s a holiday!! But not just any holiday, La Mercé is actually one of the most famous festivals in all of Spain. The festival was created Catholics to honor the Virgin of Grace, Mare de Deu de la Mercé, who is also one of the two patron saints of Barcelona. The actual holiday is on the 24th of September, which happened to be a Tuesday. However, the festivities start the Thursday night before. So not only was I able to attend festivites all weekend, we also had Monday and Tuesday off from school to celebrate as well. We went to concerts at MontJuic put on by famous Spanish and European bands, watched a drum competition in the streets, went to a wine and cava festival, and watched the best firework show I have EVER seen in my life. On top of all of this, I was able to participate in what is called the correfoc, or fire run. Which is basically a parade of the drummers I previously mentioned, and people holding fireworks that they shoot quite literally into the crowd. There was definitely some dodging involved, but it was an experience I know I could not have gotten anywhere else in the world.
TIP: If you are here during the fall, chances are you wont necessarily miss fall break, Thanksgiving break, and other random holidays, but you will still miss your friends and family. So, if its in their/your budget, convince them to come visit during one of these times!!