The Pyrenees, our precious nature reserve, a magnificent mountain range of high peaks and crystalline lakes, is home of hundreds of small villages with a history of more than a thousand years. These villages are birth home of an ancestral tradition: the Summer Solstice Bonfires of the Pyrenees or, as we call it Catalan: Falles dels Pirineus, Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO since 2015.
A Fire Festival
Fire is an ubiquitous element in Catalan Cultural and Traditional Heritage. It is present in Patum Festival, the main protagonist in Saint John’s Eve Festival and part of our local festivities with the typical and popular fire-runs. Fire is again the protagonist of Falles dels Pirineus, a ritual that includes bonfires and brand-fire-runners.
The ritual of running the burning beacons down the mountains begins on the previous days with construction of the beacons (falles) in the traditional way. These are a two meters long torches built with pine wood tied with wire. On the day of the celebration, the brand-runners gather together in a high point of the mountain, visible from the village, where a pine has been planted in advance. When the night falls, they set the pine on fire and use this fire to lit their wood torches. Then, the fire is descended from the mountain to the village main square. Once on the village, the brand-runners are welcomed with music and traditional dances and a big bonfire is set with the fire of the falles.
The Festival has an ancient origin, connected to the rural and solar cycles. It is associated with primitive rites concerning life regeneration, fertility and gratitude to Gods for the prosperous harvests and the arrival of warm weather. Pulling out the fire (as a symbol if the Sun) from the mountains and take it down to the village was good for purifying the lands and woods and to protect the people from the evil spirits.
The Falles dels Pirineus take place in more than one hundred little villages from the Catalan and French Pyrenees and Andorra during June and July. The most popular Falles take place in villages from Catalan regions Alta Ribagorça, Pallars and Vall d’Aran. One of this villages is Boí, where there’s another World’s Heritage landmark: the Catalan Romanesque Chruches of Vall de Boí.
On the UNESCO website, you can watch a video featuring the different parts of the Festival with testimonials of the protagonists.