A Catalan correfoc is a stunning visual extravaganza. The name translates as “fire run” so as the name suggests, health and safety are not on the menu, medieval style pyrotechnics are. Basically a street level, hand-held firework display, the correfoc offers convincing evidence that Spain is not a nanny state. In a correfoc, participants dress up as devils and light fireworks, dance to the loud and raucous drumming provided by a traditional gralla, and run amok among the crowds of spectators with sparks flying! Dressed in red and black, wearing horns and masks, ‘colles de diables’ (groups of ‘devils’) dance amongst the crowds accompanied by loud music, waving sparklers, firecrackers, and roman candles, spitting fire into the crowd.
Some major correfocs are run during the Festival of La Mercè and Sant Antoni in Barcelona and the Festival of Santa Tecla in Tarragona. In Sitges, a crowd lines the street while participants run through a tunnel of fireworks – not for the fainthearted.
This is the classic formula of a correfoc though they can come in the more sedate form of a simple parade using fireworks and effigies of the devil.
The origins of a correfoc clearly lie in the medieval Catalunya (witnessed also in their existence in the Balearic Islands which at the time were under the control of the courts of Barcelona). The festival represents the fight of good against evil and originates in a form of medieval street theatre called ‘Ball de Diables’.
Another fine example of a correfoc takes place in L’Arboç in the province of Tarragona where the highlight of the village’s festival is the Carretillada, in which the town square is made to look like hell and ‘devils’ burn their carretilles (carts), jumping around while a large ‘sceptre of Lucifer’ and ‘pitchfork of the Diablessa (she-devil)’ spouts jets of fire and other pyrotechnics.
So long as you wear suitable protective clothing and some goggles then there is no reason why you should not participate in a correfoc during your visit to Barcelona and Catalunya.