If this were America, the lawyers would be on speed dial. Adding to our ever growing list of festival experiences here in Spain, this weekend we ventured out for the kids portion of La Merce, one of the biggest and most raucous of Barcelona’s many special celebrations.
I can’t help but laugh thinking how the EU is known for very consumer-friendly legal standards covering things like food and airline flights, yet a festival promising to light a few kids on fire also gets a green light. Plainly stated, La Merce isn’t a festival for the meek.
The kids parade is highlighted by a correfoc, which loosely translates to a fire run. Costumed “devils” run through the parade route to a booming backbeat of drums while holding blazing sticks that spin and send fiery sparks into the crowd. To make it even more interesting, most of the devils are kids in the 8-14 year-old range.
You got that right. They hand blazing fireworks that shoot out hot sparks to children and then let ‘em loose. Somewhere in middle America, a 100 shysters just sat straight up and started to plot a trip to Spain. Imagine the lawsuits to be milked from setting kids ablaze!
With little knowledge of what was to come, we picked out what seemed like a good spot before the start of the parade and settled in to await the (literal) fireworks. As usual with most festivals, the crowd was overflowing with small fry. The Spanish love a good festival and always have the kids in tow. It really is a very family-oriented and supportive culture.
A sudden boom at the other end of the street heralded the start of the parade. As I glanced down the street, I spotted twin rings of sparks flying in the air about eight or so blocks away. The display continued for an extended period of time, leaving me to wonder would they replicate such a big display all the way down the street? Oh yeah. And more.
By the time the procession reached us, the combined noise of the hammering drums and exploding fireworks was nothing short of deafening. Packs of pre-teens filled the streets, clad in heavy coats and goggles for protection, taking turns lighting their flaming rods and racing through the crowd. And these were no shy sparks, as attested by the sudden burning sensation on the top of my head. I think I sacrificed a couple of hairs to the cause – and I’m already getting a little thin to be giving any more up! No one mentioned I needed to duck from the dragon.
The substantial noise had many kids cowering away from the street, so as a recruitment tool for future “devils,” I’d say this run was not too successful. That said, the rest of the participants seemed to be having the time of their lives, even if some folks on the US side of the pond would be horrified at events.
I may not be 100% behind the whole display, but I have to give the Spanish credit. Any time you can keep the lawyers from spoiling the fun is a good time indeed. Let’s leave the speed dial to Domino’s.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: It seems like every festival here has colorful roots, with La Merce being no different. Its backstory actually includes a plague of locusts and a virgin. You can’t get much more colorful than that… Living next door to an old folks home usually makes for quiet evenings. But I have to admit not loving laundry day when a couple dozen nightgowns start swaying in the breeze right outside our kitchen window. I liked it even less when I spotted that the gowns are hospital issue with a substantial open area in the rear. I could have lived many happy years without that image…