On August 15, the good people of the city of Barcelona turn out each year in droves to celebrate La Asunción - also known as The Assumption. La Asunción commemorates the day that the Virgin Mary was, according to the Catholic faith, taken up into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. This big religious (and bank) holiday coincides with the first day of the annual Festa Major de Gràcia... a HUGE, LOUD, VIBRANT, CREATIVE weeklong neighborhood party unlike anything we have ever seen.
The party (called "festa" in Catalan) kicked off "for real" this morning... with almost every street in Gràcia decorated according to its own theme and celebrating throughout the day with a schedule of parades, fireworks, performances and (in the evening) live music. Each street. Sort of like a block party... but where every block inside a massive radius is having its own individual block party. There are literally bands and DJs still playing on like 20 streets around our AirBNB apartment as I type this... at 1:37am local time. In fact, the music, whistling and cheering are so loud on our street, it feels as though we could easily be at a nightclub in the San Diego gaslamp district.
"I've never seen anything like this," Señor Aventura texted me this morning as he was walking with our kids. "Come down to join us - it's worth it. This is really, really neat!"
Indeed as the day wore on, we could not believe the intensity and creativity of the full-day event... which will continue from Tuesday all the way through Sunday night!
This photo (above) perfectly captures the vibe of the festival during the daylight hours... everyone in sandals and flip flops, reggae bands performing on various streets... extremely relaxed families and children flooding the streets.
After all this fun, we'd walked enough to work up a bit of an appetite. Soccer Dude suggested sushi... por que no? :)
In the middle of the day, the temperature soared to above 90 degrees F with 31% humidity. The festival wound down for a few hours, likely so that most people could go home to get some rest! However, by 6pm it was back in full swing... and by 11:30pm live bands were playing on every block around our apartment throughout the entire neighborhood of Gracia.
Toward the end of our walkabout, The Scientist stopped me and said, "Mom - check out that poster. It's so cool! That's my favorite part of tonight."
He showed me a banner on the side of a stage where a band was playing... it translates approximately to "Refugees, Welcome. Any person could be illegal..." or, (perhaps in a less literal translation) "We are all illegal." I'd seen this sign before in Barcelona, and it stands in such stark contrast to what we've experienced in the USA. This was The Scientist's first time noticing it, and it meant a lot to him.
We are slowly getting used to living in a country where gun violence is not a daily issue, a city where refugees and illegal immigrants are (at least for now) officially welcome... and a neighborhood where music and creativity fill the streets at all times of day and night.
Le Encanta, Barcelona!!!
The live music began to wind down around 12:30am... but local bars, makeshift beergartens, and restaurants with tables covering the streets are just starting to really get going. Drums, fireworks and DJ music continue to create a really enthusiastic beat.
The Scientist, Soccer Dude and I are all still awake... although the boys are cheerfully trying their best to sleep through the din. (Kind of hard to do with bands playing for an adoring audience just a few feet away from our balcony.) Señor Aventura and Little Angel were both so tired, they've managed to find their way into a deep slumber around midnight, despite the exuberant party atmosphere.
This is so much fun... and, it makes us all more confident about our decision to move permanently to calmer Sarrià. I can't imagine how we'd deal with this kind of effusive partying on a school night with tired kids trying to finish their homework. Sarrià will be the perfect neighborhood for us in the long-term... and we'll definitely know where to find the action if we're looking for it! Gràcia is amazing.
I feel so young! Whenever we return to Europe, especially Spain, especially Gràcia, the years quickly cascade off of my tired shoulders and I remember how joyful life can (and should) be.
I'm absolutely ready to go dancing!!!