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23 Jun 2014 | Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |
Correfoc

The Essential Guide to the Catalan Correfoc

The Essential Guide to the Catalan Correfoc

An Amazing Spectacle that You'll Want to Come Prepared to...

If you're a Barcelona resident, you might be used to the end of your street suddenly exploding in a flurry of fire, drums, and screaming people. In any other part of the world you may want to run and duck for cover, but don't worry, there's no rioting going on here; it's just a Catalan correfoc dancing by...

What is a correfoc?

Correfoc Sculpture of Parc Güell Lizard
A Correfoc Sculpture

The name literally means "fire run", and that should give you a pretty good idea of how exciting these events are. Instead of having plain fireworks at a parade, the correfoc involves a train of dancers dressed as devils who run through the streets setting off shrieking explosions. They carry sticks set on fire, which they swish through the air in dramatic patterns. And if that wasn't enough excitement, the devils are accompanied by band of pipers and drummers pounding out an intense rhythm.

Some groups bring special sculptures that spit out flames. You might spot a giant recreation of Gaudí's famous dragon from Park Güell with fireworks on sticks in its mouth and along its tail and back. The dancers supporting the dragon from beneath whirl around in a circle, shooting sparks onward onto the crowds whooping in excitment. Dragons form a part of Catalan culture, which you can read more about here.

Where do correfocs come from?

Correfoc diable at a correfoc
Ball de Diables (Devil's Dance)

The tradition of the correfoc dates back to at least the 1100s. It comes from the ball de diables - the devils' dance - a traditional folk dance and show performed for nobility between meal courses. The spectacle was all about the battle between good and evil. They added a little, shall we say, extra spark to the event. Over the centuries, it's evolved into the correfoc performed all over Catalonia today.

How do you find a correfoc?

Large Correfoc gathering in Barcelona
Sparks flying at the local Correfoc

Usually a correfoc will find you! That is to say, when a correfoc kicks off, the whole neighbourhood knows about it. You'll hear the drums beating first, then the piped music of the traditional gralla pipes (similar to bagpipes) as it slowly gets closer. There will also be the occasional loud boom as the correfoc runners set off a series of small explosions. Things get louder and louder, and if you're lucky enough to have them pass by your flat (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), all the glass in your windows will begin to tremble with the bursts of fireworks and noise.

What do I do during a correfoc?

Spectator dancing at a Correfoc
This spectator joins in the dance.

All spectators are welcome to watch correfocs. But if you're feeling especially brave, you can actually join in and dance in the flames too. The key is to wrap up in safe cotton clothes and cover any body parts you don't want singed off (so probably all of them!). Watch the locals for cues on appropriate times to jump in and run with the correfoc parade. Oh and remember; if you've used hairspray, then it's probably a good idea to keep your distance ;)

When can you see correfocs?

Correfoc at the Festa Major de Gràcia
Fire flying through the air at the Festa Major de Gràcia

Are you eager to catch a correfoc in action? The best times to see them are during two of Barcelona's biggest festivals - the Festa Major de Gràcia in mid-August and the Mercè festival in late September (two festivals that you can usually find in our Barcelona events section when they are approaching. They happen throughout the year at smaller neighborhood festivals and special events as well. Pyromaniacs, book your tickets to Barcelona now!

Amazed that such a daring and exciting still exists today? You'll have to see it for yourself to believe it! If you've already been to one, you can share your experience or even leave a photo.

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Guest Writer

Jessica Bowler Jessica Bowler Website
Though she was born in England, Jessica grew up in California putting her in a lucky enough situation to have dual citizenship and easy access to Europe. Like most people who visit the Catalan capital, she fell in love with the city after a magical summer in 2011 and hasn't looked back since.

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