Catalan Tradition: El Correfoc (Running and Dancing with Fireworks)
Running and dancing with fireworks… sounds like every parent’s worst nightmare, doesn’t it? Sorry, mom, but I’ve participated in at least 5 by this point, and I’m so glad I have! The word “Correfoc” is a Catalan word that literally translates to “fire run.” Seems interesting and kind of dangerous, doesn’t it? It’s both, I can assure you! But if you have the chance to go and see this spectacle, I 100% recommend it – just go in prepared (see my tips below)!
When can you see a Correfoc?
The Correfoc is a popular part of festivals throughout Catalonia at all times of the year. I saw my first one in Badalona, a city just north of Barcelona, during their Festa Major (big annual party) in May. Every town in Catalonia celebrates Festa Major once or twice a year, so if you do your research, you’re bound to find one! They sometimes have two Correfocs on the same day – one for kids in the afternoon (Correfoc Infantil), and one closer to about 10pm for the adults. For your first time, it might be a good idea to go to the children’s Correfoc beforehand to see if you can handle the loud noises and sparks, which will be even more extreme for the adult’s Correfoc.
What happens during a Correfoc?
Basically, groups of people dress up as demons (or sometimes other characters, depending on the city and their mascot) and carry around pitchfork-looking torches that spray fireworks above their heads as they follow a predetermined parade route. It is incredibly loud, and sparks of fire rain down on everyone around them. They wear protective gear, including goggles, gloves, and handkerchiefs to cover their mouths. People in the crowd who wish to participate also dress similarly, in long pants and hoodies. Sometimes people even drench themselves with a bucket of water to be extra careful so that they don’t accidentally catch fire or get burned.
As the demons run by in the streets and ignite their fireworks, many people from the audience run in towards them and dance under the raining fire. For hours, they dance through the streets like this. They also have bands of drummers that take part in the parade, keeping the crowd pumped up with rhythmic and energetic music. Generally at the end of the Correfoc route, there are concerts and parties on the beach or in a plaza. It is such a fun and thrilling tradition! Don’t underestimate Catalonia’s love of parties.
Photo Cred: www.shbarcelona.es
Who participates in the Correfoc?
I’ve seen people of all ages participating! The people who dress up and provide the fireworks are generally part of a ‘professional‘ group of friends and family, so sometimes you’ll even see little kid demons carrying the fire through the streets. And it is also very common to see families in the crowd (parents, children and all) dressed up and ready to go dance underneath the sparks of the fireworks. It is a popular tradition for the Catalan people, and it isn’t seen as dangerous because they know how to adequately protect themselves.
Of course, that doesn’t mean all Catalans love it. I knew some families at the school I was working at who just hated the noise, or who got scared of fireworks in general. So, it isn’t for everyone – you just have to know yourself before making the decision to go!
Prepare Yourself for Your 1st Correfoc
My first time going to watch this spectacle, I didn’t dress properly because I figured I wouldn’t be actually going in to dance with them – I just wanted to watch. Stupidly, I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and shorts. When the demon people finally arrived bearing their fireworks, they would come in towards the crowd, enjoying watching everyone quickly run away from the sparks.
For your first time witnessing this, I recommend trying to find a place a bit out of the way, not directly in the streets. The sparks fly everywhere, so definitely dress in long pants and long sleeves, and a hoodie is a good idea as well. Perhaps you don’t plan on being near the fireworks, but you never know what will happen – better to be safe than sorry!
Have you ever seen a Correfoc? Do you know of any other traditions that are similar? Let me know in the comments below!
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