Well it´s that time of year again, when summer time is quickly fading away and the changing of the seasons is already quite apparent. If you happen to live or be passing through Barcelona, well then this must mean that yet another festival is upon us. Yes, the yearly La Mercé festival has returned and is back again.

La Virgen de La Mercé is the patron saint of the city of Barcelona and was declared so by Pope Pius IX in 1868. However, the history of La Virgen de La Mercé began much earlier. According to legend, La Virgen appeared to King Jaume 1, Saint Pere Nolasc, and Saint Ramón de Penyafort simultaneously on the night of September 24, 1218. Centuries later in 1687, when Barcelona was suffering from an outbreak of the plague, the people again put their faith in La Virgen and turned to her for help and when the plague was finally overcome, the city council named her the patron saint of the city, followed of course years later by the pope.

Today the tradition of celebrating La Virgen is still held on an annual basis, closely reflecting the celebration of 1902, which was when the festival really began to take hold and become quite popular. It was actually in this year that the traditional model by which Catalans still celebrate this holiday took hold. The beauty about La Mercé is that it is a multi-day event usually lasting about a week or more, which offers the citizens of Cataluña the opportunity to enjoy a wide array of activities. The festival includes many traditional elements such as the traditional Gironese Sardana dance, human castle building or castells as they are known in Catalan, gegants I capgrossos, which are massive papier-mâché giants, usually represented in the form of a king or queen, which are paraded throughout the city, as well as the famous street festivals.

Actually, if you happen to be in Barcelona and wish to experience your very first Mercé, then you cannot afford to miss the street festivals, the best of which take place late in the evening. You will find the people, as well as massive moving caricatures, dressed up and representing devils and dragons, spewing fire and fireworks into the air, all the while "attacking" those lurking close by. In fact, it is all in good fun however at times you may feel as if you are in a city on the verge of a riot, as there is so much noise produced from the beating of hundreds of drums, fireworks, fire spewing into the air, as well as the presence of thousands of people taking part in this fabulous event.

In addition, Barcelona annually invites a guest city to take part in the festivities, offering up a chance to discover perhaps a lesser known and distinct culture, from which Barcelona can be influenced, learn, and incorporate into its own unique and multi-cultural past. This year the guest city will be Dakar, which is the capital city of Senegal. So if you may be looking for an alternative way to check out and discover this amazing city, then don´t hesitate in renting an apartment in Barcelona, as you will surely discover a very unique and traditional festival that will surely impress and inspire at the same time.