Festa dels Tres Tombs Barcelona, or “Cavalcada dels Tres Tombs de Sant Antoni a Barcelona” to use its full name, transforms Barcelona into parade central. It is also the main attraction of the ”Festa Mayor de Sant Antoni” festival of the Sant Antoni neighborhood of Barcelona. And luckily for all you lovely people who are in Barcelona right now it’s happening this Saturday January the 19th, so bring a packed lunch and a flask, and come prepared for an entired day of parade-going fun!
Before you start assuming that the parade has anything at all to do with tombs (or coffins, or ghosts, or vampires for that matter) – the word “tombs” in Catalan actually means “tours.” Combined with the word “tres” the full title is translated as “Festival of the Three Tours” and is a celebration of Saint Anthony’s Day, which is celebrated on January 17th. (So, Happy St. Anthony’s Day, everyone, woohoo!) The parade route does not actually circle the same route three times as implied, it winds its way throughout the city with a relatively long procession, a moving museum of sorts that consists of thirty-five different floats and carriages. As illustrated in the picture above, many of the carriages are vintage carts traditionally used for drawing animals, although old-fashioned fire engines, cowboys, riders on ponies, oxen, wagons of beer, and hearses among others are also to be sighted. Needless to say the procession offers a spectacular glimpse into Catalan history.
My favourite aspect of the Festival by far is the Benedicció dels Tres Tombs i Animals – the Blessing of the Parade and the Animals. If you think this blessing is purely symbolic – boy, are you in for a treat! When the parade reaches the La Escola Pia de Sant Antoni church (located on Ronda de San Pau 72), it pauses for the parade animals (the oxen, horses, ponies, etc.) to be blessed by the priest. After the parade animals have been blessed and the procession passes on, at around 11:30am the citizens of the city bring their domestic animals for a blessing, and the front of the church is filled with dogs, cats, gerbils, parrots, hamsters, and their respective owners all bowing down for their priestly blessing. See, St. Anthony the Abbot, in whose honor the parade is held, is also the Patron Saint of animals. If like myself you are an animal lover, this part of the parade will warm you heart on a chilly January day. If not, then the Sant Antoni Festa Mayor has a full program of equally festive events including concerts and dance and theatrical exhibitions, as well as the Cursa Sant Antoni 10k run going on all weekend.
On Sunday January 20th at 20:00, the festival ends with the traditional Catalan Correfoc Infernal (which starts at Calabria and Gran Via streets). A Correfoc, or “fire run,” are a group dressed as devils and sprites, dancing and beating drums with fireworks coming out of their spears… so maybe don’t bring your kids to this one. All in all the entire weekend is a wonderful celebration of all things fun and Catalan and not to be missed.