The popular tradition of the baixada de falles (running of the falles), a sort of march from the mountains to the town carrying a flaming torch, is a traditional festival of many towns at the Alta Ribagorça, Pallars Jussà and Pallars Subirà comarques (counties), north of Catalonia, in the Pyrenees mountains.
These practices are related to the ancient Sun worship rites and are traced back to before the arrival of Indo-Europeans several millenia ago. It was believed that the evil spirits, who roamed at midnight, where scared by fire and bonfires. These rites were offered to thank the Gods for the success of the harvest and the arrival of good weather. Most probably, this celebration of the summer solstice had in prehistoric times a complexity and importance that today we do not fully comprehend as nowadays is celebrated simply as a festive and fun tradition.
Each year, when the festivity approaches, at every village seven or eight young and tall pines that have previously been planted in a special area of the mountain are cut and several torches (falles) are carefully prepared. On the night of the festivity, the participants -generally young bachellors, albeit teens and married men do participate too nowadays- take the torches to the mountain. The participants then wait until sunset, then these are lighted up and carried by the participants in a march from the mountain to the main square where their partners are waiting with sweets and muscat, then dances and other rituals take place and the event is ended with a communal feast.
The slow march downhill carrying the heavy lighted torch is around 1km (1100 yards) long and takes around 30′. The fist running of the falles occurs in the town of Durro around mid June, many others happen on the eve of Saint John’s (23th of June) and the last one at the town of Taüll, in mid July. This is without doubt one of the most impressive old traditions still maintained in Catalonia and it’s well worth a visit if you happen to visit the area.
http://www.festes.org/directori.php?id=253 -in Catalan only.
http://elportaldelspirineus.com/en_agenda/ -calendar of festivals and events in the Pyrenees.
Check this website for some spectacular pictures of a baixada de falles.
The audio is in Catalan yet the video will give you an idea on what to expect when visiting the event.
Video: © AymA