"Baixada de Falles". A UNESCO World Heritage fire festival.
Do you want to enjoy a celebration brimming with magic, light, mysticism and tradition? Well, you can't afford to miss some of the fire festivals held in the Pyrenees and its foothills, which were awarded Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO in 2015. They'll leave you amazed.
Put in a nutshell, the "baixada de falles" involves carrying flaming torches, known as "falles", down the mountain to the village at nightfall.
The origins of this tradition, like many of those in the rural communities, is closely linked to the cycles of the sun and land. In ancient times, this ritual was a way of purifying the fields and woodland, as well as the local population, with the aim of protecting them from evil spirits. It was also held to give thanks to the gods for the success of the harvest with the arrival of the fine weather. The tradition endures today and the celebration has been transformed into a spectacular procession of light that is ancestral, liberating and magical.
Before the carriers ("fallaires") bring down the flaming torches, they have a meal on the top of the mountain where they light a beacon, known as a "faro", when night falls. The beacon is made from trees that have been felled beforehand and placed upright, and close together, in an isolated spot. Once the beacon is alight, each "fallaire" lights their torch and makes their way down to the village guided by the head of the procession, known as the "fadrí". The torch is made of pieces of pine wood bound with wire around a long beech or hazel stick. The type of fire festival varies from village to village but they all have one thing in common: the villagers make the torches by hand weeks in advance. They have to be fit to carry them as some can weigh as much as 20 kilos.
The procession consists of two parts: The first, and the longest, is on foot, and, the second involves the "fallaires" running into the village where they are welcomed by the locals to great jubilation and by musicians playing traditional music associated with the festivities. At the end, the torches are thrown onto a big bonfire and people dance and party around it. This marks the start of celebrations that go on through the night!
Many towns and villages in the Pyrenees and its foothills celebrate this summer solstice tradition: Alins, Arties, Barruera, Boí, Casòs, Durro, Erill la Vall, Isil, Les, Llesp, Pobla de Segur, Pont de Suert, Senet, Taüll and Vilaller. The exceptions are Bagà and Sant Julià de Cerdanyola, which hold a fire festival to celebrate the winter solstice on Christmas Eve.
Choose the place and date that suits you best and experience the magic of fire up close!
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