The Catalan festival of fire: Correfoc
The Catalan festival of fire: Correfoc has a good chance of becoming the highlight of your trip. Once you have witnessed it once you will never forget it. Keep on reading and find out why.
Little explanation of Correfoc
If you translate Correfoc literally it means “fire-run”. The fire festival is said to be the most striking Catalan festival. The tradition (in its current form) originated in 1078, at the annual festival of La Mercè. However there is an even older dance tradition. Allegedly Correfoc evolved from “Ball de Diables” (“the devils’ dance”). This medieval practice is a representation of the struggle between the good and the evil. This performance was usually presented in between the entrees of the nobility in the Middle Ages.
The atmosphere and look
Correfoc is an open-air performance, during which people dress up as devils and other monstrous creatures. They light up fireworks and dance to the sound of rhythmic drums. The performers create all kind of patterns in the air with their flaming sticks. The artists are usually surrounded by spectators, who providently wear clothing that could protect them from small burns. People that are watching react in different ways. Some want to come as close as possible and some want to enjoy from a far. However, the best way to experience Correfoc is to run along with the fire together with the demons.
Correfocs are celebrated in different cities and they are never the same, because of customs and traditions. In Sitges it is common for a crowd to line the side of the street, while participants run trough a tunnel of fireworks. In other cities groups bring all forms and shapes sculptures that spit fire. For instance you can spot a colossal famous recreation of Gaudi’s dragon from Park Güell, with fireworks in its mouth and all down its back and tail. Another variant takes places in L’Arboc. The highlight of the festival is the Carretillada. During the evening of the feast day, the town square dressed up to look like Hell. Before dinner “devils” burn their carretilles (carts) and jump around.
It doesn’t matter to which city you go to watch and celebrate the correfocs, the show will always be something never seen before.
Details of Correfoc
Because Correfocs is strongly connected to the Catalan identity, there’s actually a high chance of coming across a Correfoc on any celebration in Catalonia. Some other events that are always accompanied by a fire show are La Mercè in Barcelona (usually takes place in September), Festa Major de Gracia in Barcelona (in August), Festival of Santa Tecla in Tarragona (no exact date) and the Festival of Saint Narcissus in Girona (at the end of October).
During Correfocs you can see fire demons of all ages. There are even children running around like little monstrous creatures. That’s because the tradition of participating in this festival is usually passed on from generation to generation. The performers often constitute a ‘professional’ group of friends and families. It is not that surprising for families to be involved in Correfoc and it is not as dangerous as it might seem, since they know how to adequately protect themselves.
The tradition actually has been banned before under the dictatorship of General Franco. He did not only ban the Correfocs but also other regional traditions that weren’t strictly “Spanish”. But now it is luckily back. And Catalans are also free to speak their own language and celebrate their colourful cultural heritage.
We recommend you to wear cotton clothes with long sleeves if you decide to visit one of the Correfocs. It is also a good idea to wear something to shield your eyes and cover your neck and of course appropriate footwear. If you are planning to be close to the fireworks please think of your ears and bring some earplugs. The organisation also helps by setting out buckets of water on the streets just in case people accidentally catch on fire. Have a good night sleep before the day of the festival because it can go on for hours. And once you are coming, you may as well check out some of our apartments in Barcelona.
Share your experience in the comments section if you have ever seen a Correfoc! Do you know any other unusual Catalan festivals that we haven’t covered yet? Let us know! 🙂