Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees
Inscribed in 2015 (10.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
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.