On the occasion of the Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh, I would like to share an intangible heritage festivity from Catalonia that has also fire as a theme: les Falles del Pirineu. Listed as Intangible Heritage of UNESCO on November 2015, this tradition dates from the 11th century and is celebrated in the area of the Catalan Pyrenees.
The term falles refers to logs on fire that function as torches. This celebration is run by the youth who, when the night falls, descend from the mountains with their torches to the main squares to create a big bonfire for chasing away the evil spirits. This performance is greeted by the rest of the population with traditional music, dances and sometimes with food offerings such as cakes and wine. After this exchange, it is customary to paint a cross on the cemetery’s entrance door and then continue with the dances around the bonfire.
This peculiar celebration takes place in different times a year, depending on the town where it is celebrated. Some places run it on the summer solstice and others on the 24th of December. As in the Samhuinn Fire Festival, created in 1995 but inspired in the traditional Samhuinn, the seasons of summer and winter and the spirits are embedded in the symbolism of the Pyrenees. It is interesting to value the significance of traditions that are deeply rooted to nature and the far beyond and celebrated worldwide.
Vall de Boí. (2016). Les Falles. [online] Available at: http://www.vallboi.cat/ca/les-falles [Accessed 31 Oct. 2016].
Beltane Fire Society. (2016). About Samhuinn Fire Festival. [online] Available at: https://beltane.org/about-samhuinn/ [Accessed 31 Oct. 2016].
(Cover image source: Vilaweb)