First, I hear a loud bang. It’s followed by another one and before I know it the street is full of noise, fire and devils. A marching band beats their drums in an ecstatic rhythm that gets me and everyone else on their feet. Amongst the group of devils I see a scary beast. Right in front of me the beast pauses for a moment and spins around in wild circles while sending fire into the crowd. I can’t help but yell out and run further away from it to avoid getting hit by the fire sparks. The devils run and dance and twirl around, holding sticks high above their heads that spit more fire in all directions. People around me are yelling, laughing and dancing with the devils and I wonder what this incredible fire spectacle is!
The Devils and their Correfoc
One of Catalonia’s most exciting and interesting traditions is the “Correfoc”, a “Fire Run” when you translate it literally to English. A Correfoc is a spectacle that involves a lot of fireworks, pyrotechnics and music. Many neighbourhoods and towns in Catalonia have their own group of “diables” (devils). People who dress up in a devil costume, dance around and set off fireworks. The devils carry long sticks. On top of those, firecrackers are attached and there are some devils that go around to light them and replace them with new ones when they have gone out. The devils are always accompanied by a band that plays the drums and the “Gralla”, a traditional Catalan reed instrument. The band plays an important role in the Correfoc, the music is loud and fast and goes perfectly with the wild dancing of the devils. Often the parade is led by a beast. For example a dragon or a big rat. These beasts have amazing fireworks set up on their claws or snout and when they spin around the fire sparks make for a spectacular show. The big beast scares and excites the crowd at the same time, when it approaches, people run away in all directions to get to safety. The real daredevils in the crowd run along with the devils and dance with them under their fountains of sparks.
As early as the 12th century, dancing of devils was documented in Catalonia. These dances later evolved into the spectacle that the Correfoc now is. And even though the beast and devils depict hell and satan, they are not seen as evil. Instead they are festive characters and everyone, even the youngest of children, want to run along with them and get as close to the fire as they dare.
During the many summer festivals in Barcelona, Correfocs are held almost weekly. The groups of devils from each neighbourhood are determined to make their Correfoc an unforgettable spectacle of fire and music. So don’t be scared when you see a dancing group of devils walk their fire spitting dragon down the street! It’s Barcelona, it’s summer! Just join the madness, but be careful with the fire…