Festival of Sant Medir
- With Children
Every year, on the 3rd of March, Barcelona celebrates the Festival of Sant Medir, also known as the Sweet Festival.
According to Joan Amades’s 1952 volume on Catalan lore, Costumario Catalán, there are two stories behind this tradition: a religious story, and a more modern version. Legend has it that in the year 303, Bishop Severo fled from Barcelona to escape the persecution of the Roman troops sent by the emperor Diocletian. During his ordeal, he was assisted by a peasant named Medir, who lived up in the Collserola mountains, on a plot not far from where Sant Cugat is today, and where his bean fields began to flourish miraculously. But the Romans hunted them down, and both men were tortured to death.
The Festival of Sant Medir is one of the most quintessential celebrations for the village of Gràcia. It dates back to 1828, when baker Josep Vidal i Granés vowed to make a religious pilgrimage to the Sant Medir hermitage every year, if he found a cure to one of his physical ailments. He kept his promise, and his annual pilgrimages to the hermitage at Sant Cugat grew larger each year, as family members, friends and neighbors joined, heading up the mountain in small groups.
In the beginning, those making the pilgrimage would toss beans along the path, as an homage to the Saint who’d planted them. Over the years, the beans began to be substituted by the candies which are still strewn today, giving the festival its alternate title, the Sweet Festival.
Today, the festival begins with a morning procession through the neighborhood, followed by the pilgrimage to the Sant Medir hermitage. At midday, different groups gather at the hermitage where a mass in honor of the Saint is officiated, and groups receive a commemorative ribbon. Then, from their horses, trucks, or carriages, each group in turn tosses tons of sweets and candies into the crowds below.
Other neighborhoods that partake in the Festival of Sant Medir include La Bordeta and Sant Gervasi. According to local custom in Gràcia and Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, the festival should fall on a business day; since the 3rd of March this year falls on a Sunday, the fest will be held the following day, on Monday the 4th. However, bear in mind that in La Bordeta, the morning procession always takes place the Sunday following the festival.