Tangible or Intangible
Intantigle | Inmaterial | Imaterial
Image | Imagen | Imagem
Image credits | Créditos de imagen | Créditos de imagem
Dominique Fournier in Unesco ICH website
Title, name | Titulo, nombre | Título, nome
Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees / Les fêtes du feu du solstice dans les Pyrénées
Short description | Descripción corta | Descrição resumida
The summer solstice fire festivals take place in the Pyrenees each year on the same night when the sun is at its zenith. Once night falls, people from different towns and villages carry flaming torches down the mountains to light a variety of traditionally constructed beacons. The descent is a special moment for young people, signifying the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The festival is considered a time for regenerating social ties and strengthening feelings of belonging, identity and continuity with celebrations including popular folklore and communal dining. Roles are assigned to specific people. In some municipalities, the mayor is involved with lighting the first beacon. In others, a priest blesses or lights the fire. Elsewhere, the most recently married man lights the fire and leads the descent to the village. Often, young unmarried girls await the arrival of the torchbearers in the village with wine and sweet pastries. In the morning, people collect embers or ashes to protect their homes or gardens. The element has deep roots among local communities and is perpetuated thanks to a network of associations and local institutions. The most important locus of transmission is the family, where people keep the memory of this heritage alive.

Les fêtes du feu du solstice d’été ont lieu dans les Pyrénées chaque année la même nuit, quand le soleil est à son zénith. À la nuit tombée, les habitants de différents villes et villages portent des flambeaux depuis le sommet des montagnes pour embraser des bûchers de construction traditionnelle. Pour les jeunes, la descente de la montagne est un moment très spécial signifiant le passage de l’adolescence à l’âge adulte. Le festival est considéré comme un moment qui offre un temps pour la régénération des liens sociaux et le renforcement des sentiments d’appartenance, d’identité et de continuité, avec des célébrations qui comprennent des danses folkloriques et des repas communaux. Des rôles sont assignés à des personnes spécifiques. Dans certaines municipalités, le maire est impliqué dans la mise à feu du premier bûcher. Dans d’autres, un prêtre bénit ou allume le feu. Ailleurs, l’homme le plus récemment marié dans le village allume le feu et mène la descente dans les villages. Souvent, des jeunes filles célibataires attendent l’arrivée des porteurs de flambeaux dans les villages avec du vin et des pâtisseries. Dans la matinée, les gens collectent des braises ou des cendres pour protéger leurs foyers et leurs jardins. L’élément a des racines profondes au sein des communautés locales et se perpétue grâce à un réseau d’associations et d’institutions locales. Le lieu le plus important de transmission est la famille, où les gens gardent vivante la mémoire de ce patrimoine.
Community or culture | Comunidad o cultura | Comunidade ou cultura
Communities of the Pyrenees
Practitioners, Autor | Practicantes, Autores | Praticantes, Autores
Fallaires, associations or groups made up of the people who burn the falles and prepare the haros and brandons, or torches, folklore and music groups and the population in general
Museum | Museo | Museu
Place | Local | Local
63 localities in the Pyrenees in France, Spain and Andorra
Country | País
España, Andorra, France
Language | Idioma
français, español, aranais, occitan, benasquese, catalan


Video credits | Créditos de vídeo | Créditos vídeo
ACMEMFP, See more in the video credits (min 9:41)
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3D object | Objeto 3D
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Text | Texto
Text credits | Créditos del texto | Créditos do texto
Record date | Fecha de registro | Data do registo
Image 1 | Imagen 1 | Imagem 1
Image 1 credits | Créditos imagen 1 | Créditos da imagem 1
Santisanchez in Unesco ICH website
Image 2 | Imagen 2 | Imagem 2
Image 2 credits | Créditos imagen 2 | Créditos da imagem 2
Ester Sirat in Unesco ICH website
Image 3 | Imagen 3 | Imagem 3
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Roc Garcia, Elias Cos in Unesco ICH website
Image 4 | Imagen 4 | Imagem 4
Image 4 credits | Créditos imagen 4 | Créditos da imagem 4
Hector Navarri in Unesco ICH website


Origin, history | Origen, historia | Origem, história
The Pyrenees, a mountain range that legends have often depicted ablaze, remains home to a clutch of communities who keep alive a tradition that can be traced back some one thousand years: the Summer Solstice Fire Festivals, known variously as falles, haros and brandons. The ritualistic, cyclical celebrations are practiced on the same night ever year when the sun is at its zenith and fire thus becomes a reflection of it. This was originally a pagan celebration (Sun cults) and was then adopted by Christians (St John the Baptist and John the Apostle); it is now a collective festival that brings societies together while retaining its magical and symbolic atmosphere born of a blend of beliefs, customs and rituals. In readiness for nightfall the communities use their traditional skills to make falles, halhes or halhas (from the Latin facula, or torch), haros, taros, harts or faros (from the Greek pharos, or beacon) and brandons (Frankish brand, or firebrand; occitan brandou, green bough at the top of the firebrand). Once night falls these communities begin ritualistic processions that evoke strong feelings and emotions. From the top of the mountains (faro), where a stake is lit, to a village – or just in a village – flaming torches are carried against a backdrop of high emotion and shouts, all the way to the falles majors, haros and brandons (big trunks that have been prepared and raised aloft in the main square) or taro (a trunk raised up and then dragged through the streets by the whole population). These are then set on fire and the flames begin spreading purifying, invigorating and fertilising goodness across the mountains, fields, villages and populations. The first descent is a special moment for young people, signifying the transition from adolescence to adulthood. There is also an emotional pause for introspection and thinking about friends who passed on. The celebrations also involve cultural spaces (such as faros, courses or squares), communal meals and popular folklore. In the morning people collect embers or ashes to protect their homes or gardens.
The whole populations of the municipalities bear the element, with their institutions and associations. The heritage belongs to the entire community, which is also the practitioner. The generic term fallaire(s) refers to anyone who bears and practices.
There are special roles and categories for people who take on responsibilities at various moments or in certain rituals involved in the festival or preparation. Numerous celebration still feature institutional (town hall or mayor), ecclesiastical or parish (priest) and civil representatives (formal or informal associations).
In some municipalities, such as Luchon, the mayor is tasked with lighting the brandon (in this case with the priest) and town hall staff are responsible for preparing the brandon. In all of the small municipalities these tasks are performed by residents themselves. Meanwhile, in other municipalities such as Arties, it is the mayor’s duty to extinguish the Taro in front of his house, to which the large flaming trunk is dragged by the population. In other cases, the priest either blesses (Isil) or lights (Les) the fire beforehand. In both cases the falles, faro and haros are prepared by the fallaires. Elsewhere, the most recently married man in the village lights the fire (as is the case in Sahún and Boí). This man (fadrí major in Catalan), in Boí for example, leads the fallaires’ descent with the flaming torches from the mountain to the village. In Andorra, the fallaire major, is elected annually, can be a man or a woman and leads the procession of fallaires. This community also elects a fallaire menor, who is in charge of supervising children up to 16 years of age. Here the Fallaires Association prepares the falles. In Luchon, the 250-year-old Company of Horseback Guides (Compagnie des Guides à cheval) pays tribute to the brandon by cracking whips before the fire is started. Women also play specific roles. For example, pubilles (young unmarried girls) await the fallaires’ arrival in the village (as in La Pobla de Segur) and present them with moscatell (muscat) and coca de sucre (a sweet pastry). They fulfil the role of dinner host and lead the procession through the village until the arrival of the falles. In all cases the most experienced people in each of the steps, rituals and tasks are recognised and accepted naturally by the group and take on various roles and duties in the municipalities where they are not established by rituals, even if they sometimes have particular titles (mayordomos or mayordomas), as, for example, in San Juan de Plan or the caps de colla (group leaders) in Catalan communities.
Associated heritage | Patrimonio asociado | Património associado
Cross reference | Referencias cruzadas | Referências cruzadas
Present condition | Condición actual | Estado actual
Threats | Amenazas | Ameaças
Safeguard | Salguardia | Salvaguarda
Bibliography | Bibliografía | Bibliografia


Type of object | Tipo de objeto | Tipo de objecto
Domain | Dominio | Domínio
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Category | Categorías | Categoria
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Materials & techniques | Materiales y técnicas | Materiais & Tecnicas
Measurements | Medidas
Aditional info | Información adicional | Informação adicional


Domain | Dominio | Dominío
Social practices rituals and festive events | Prácticas sociales y eventos festivos | Práticas sociais e celebrações
Category | Categoria
Cyclical festivities | Fiestas cíclicas | Festividades cíclicas, Collective Rituals | Rituales colectivos | Rituais colectivos
Periodicity | Periodicidad | Periodicidade
St John’s Day
Transmission | Trasmisión | Transmissão
Everyone with specific roles or responsibilities, whether they have been chosen formally or not, teaches and transmits their knowledge, skills and rituals to the people coming after them. Generally speaking, the most important means of transmission in all three States is the family, which is the hub where people learn to love this heritage, keep alive its memory and pass it on to younger generations. Oral communication, featuring distinctive expressions and vocabulary for the festivals, helps this process. Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, as well as cousins or uncles, transmit their skill and knowledge about this ancestral tradition to children and adolescents by initiating and introducing them gradually to each of rituals and the various parts of the festival. In addition to the family, circles of friends play a significant role. So the entire population is fully involved in transmitting the element. The web of associations, whether founded in statutes or not, is essential for the organisation, smooth running and safeguarding of these festivals and also for the transmission of all these rituals and knowledge. Neighbour groups, fallaires associations and folklore and music group who dance and play music to dance to as well as traditional music, form a very important part of initiation to, and transmission of, the element. These associations often hold training and supervision workshops for children. Transmission also takes place in schools, who run practical workshops on local traditions, including on the falles. In all of these communities the town hall and its technical and cultural events departments serve an important function by supporting habits and customs and raising awareness of, and issuing the annual invitation to hold, these festivals, which are authentic moments of collective renewal, initiation, learning and transmission of the element.