Ooh La Eulàlia: Experiencing the Festival of Santa Eulàlia
I love running into local festivals! It is my goal to find some sort of local celebration every month and this month just happened to be the Festes de Santa Eulàlia [commonly known as 'La Laia'], Barcelona's biggest winter-time celebration to honor one of the the city's two patron saints.
The festival goes on for three days and involves a parade of giants, traditional dances, the bringing out of the historical flag of Catalan, running with fireworks [seriously, there are advisories out to not wear materials that are meltable/flamable] and best of all human towers!!
We started our day by train and fully expected it to be packed, but it wasn't. Similarly when we got off the train we figured there would be tons of people headed to the big festival and again it was super quiet. I was beginning to think we had the wrong day when I heard the sound of The Beach Boys playing? As we got closer we realized that it was also the day of the Barcelona marathon so that accounted for about 20,000 people that weren't wandering towards the festival. The next trick was how to get to the other side of the swiftly moving and densely packed race route with our stroller. Eventually we just went a bit upstream of where we wanted to be, joined the race for a moment and merged over to the other side of the road. That basically counts as having run in the marathon right?
As we approached the city center and Plaça de Sant Joumè we started to see people in traditional costumes for the various festivities of the day. Just as we arrived there was a group acting out some scenes of historical significance to very loud traditional Catalan music. After about 3 minutes of that we decided to head to the edge of the square and grab some breakfast before the other festivities started. The entire time we were eating Aurora was talking about the dancing giant girl [except for a brief pause because she wanted a picture with her "cute coffee"]
The city was full and lively and energetic with no shortage of things to do and see all weekend. What a treat to see the city come alive and learn about some of the local traditions. We spent quite a while in the square watching the Falconers climb up and down making different types of shapes and trying to touch the sky.
Then stayed as the castellers entered the square and built their human castles. Actually there were so many people by that point I don't think we could've left if we wanted to. It's ok, the castellers were awesome [and you can read more about our experience with them here] so it was worth getting a bit cozy with the people around us.
After squeezing our way out of the casteller crowd we started walking and Aurora caught a glimpse of the giant parade happening nearby. So of course we ran to catch up with the giants and watch them dance. They were about 10-12 feet tall so it was pretty easy to find them. It's actually pretty cool, they are built on a frame that is carried from underneath and hidden by their clothes so they can "walk" in the parade with the help of their handlers. By that point in the day the girls were pretty tired so we missed out on the Sardana dancers but it was still a pretty epic day!
PLANNING A VISIT?
The Festival of Santa Eulàlia takes place every year in early February and is free to attend. Events are held citywide but centered in the plaça de Sant Jaume.