Many Pyrenean villages celebrate Midsummer, the Nit de Sant Joan, or Eve of Saint John, that heralds the arrival of summer, with a variety of fire festivals
The night of 23 June is one of the most magic nights of the year in Catalonia, with bonfires, fireworks, correfocs ('fire-runs') to welcome the arrival of summer. Would you like to enjoy these festivals in the Pyrenees. Some of the villages there still celebrate thousand-year-old traditions and rituals of purification to mark the summer solstice, in which fire plays a leading role. The festivals are called the Falles dels Pirineus (Torches of the Pyrenees), declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2015, as the Summer Solstice Fire Festivals of the Pyrenees, and the Flama del Canigó (Flame of Canigó).
THE SUMMER SOLSTICE FIRE FESTIVALS OF THE PYRENEES
The bringing down of the torches One of the main attractions of the festivities surrounding Midsummer in Catalonia is the Pyrenean tradition of bringing down the torches. It is an age-old tradition performed with fire for the summer solstice in more than 60 towns and villages in the Pyrenean regions of Andorra, France, Aragon and in Catalonia in places like Durro, Isil, Boí and Pont de Suert, amongst others. In some places the torches are brought down some days before the summer solstice and the festival continues until mid July.
The torch- or log-bearers, usually single young men, climb a hill or some other high ground near the village, where they light the torches, of which there are a number of different kinds, depending on the village in question. Having lit them, they carry them down in a snake-like line down to the village square where, following tradition, they pile them up into a single bonfire, around which the villagers dance until the break of day.
You can see these festivals in Durro (15 June), Boí (23 June), Barruera (29 June), Erill la Vall (6 July) and Taüll (19 de July).
Festival of d'Eth Haro and d'Eth Taro The Aranese towns of Les and Arties celebrate the Eve of Saint John with an ancient festival which has its roots in old Celtic traditions of purification, the burning of a large fir tree, the Taro or the Haro, in the village square. In Les this marks the start of the festivals in honour of the patron saint of the town. In Arties, el Taro is dragged down the village streets accompanied by music, song and dancing over the flames until it reaches the Town Hall.
THE FLAME OF CANIGÓ
On 22 de June, the Flame of Canigó, which is kept all year at the Museu de la Casa Pairal in Perpinyà, is taken to the top of this Pyrenean peak. At daybreak the flame is shared out amongst the volunteers there present who then take their flame, by various routes, on foot, by car, by bicycle and even by rowing boat, to different villages around Catalonia to light the bonfires on the Eve of St. John. The tradition has been observed for more than 50 years.