Idioma [ Castellano  |  Català ]

THE FIA-FAIA FESTIVAL AND THE RETURN OF CHRISTMAS MAGIC
 
The Fia-faia festival welcomes Christmas to the communities of Bagà and San Julià de Cerdanyola. At nightfall on Christmas Eve, each town lights a bonfire on top of a mountain crag that looks out over the sunset. From the mountaintop, blazing torches are carried down to the town centre by “fallaires” (torch bearers), during a stunning night time descent, sometimes accompanied by snow. The torchbearers are greeted by a festive frenzy in each locality, when more torchbearers set alight their torches.

 
From this point onwards many torches are lit and carried round the town, accompanied by a short song: “Fia-faia our lord is born in the hay”, as well as music reminiscent of songs sang in the past and the crackling of the torches in combination with the festive Christmas spirit. When the torches are almost burnt to their ends, a bonfire is made with the remains. Kids jump over the fire and townsfolk form a ring round the edges, dancing and singing.
 
 

 

 
 
The festival in the town of Bagà is spectacular, featuring over two hundred faias or torchbearers that converge in the main square, characterised by the wooden porticos. At Sant Julià de Cerdanyola, the whole town participates during the descent of the torches and the main square bonfire and festivities keep going all night long.
 
 
The torches, known locally as faias, can be over two metres long and are made from long branches, which are collected from the fields and mountain slopes. Making a faia requires artistic skill.
 
 
The Fia-faia is an ancient festival that originates from sun worship, a more or less general feature of ancient religions in agricultural societies. Worship is based on and around the solstices, which took place in the past on June 24th and December 24th. When Christianity became dominant throughout the ancient Roman Empire, many elements of pre-Christian religions were incorporated and Christianised. The summer solstice became Saint John’s Day (San Juan) and the winter solstice became Christmas. The increasing importance of Christmas has smothered pre-Christian rituals, of which only a small residue remains. The “tio” (Christmas log personified as a little log person) is still a Christmas tradition in Catalonia and the Fia-Faia festival has persevered, although it is only known by a small minority. The fact that Christmas is a family celebration and people tend not to travel outside of their hometowns at this time of year means that the Fia-faia festival has remained a secret of the high Llobregat valleys, almost entirely unheard of outside these areas.
 
 
The Fia-faia is magical because of what it represents: worship of the sun so that sunlight and the length of the day continue to grow, so that summer splendour is revived once more. This festival also had other significations, which have been forgotten over the centuries, such as: protection of the community and the family, fertility of the land, etc.
 
 
Finally, it is also a unique festival as it has been transformed from a widespread form of worship into an extremely rare ritual, conserved only in Bagà and Sant Julià de Cerdanyola throughout the Pyrenees. Similar festivals take place in other locations in Europe.
 
 
This year, with the arrival of the longest night of the year, the torch bearers of Bagà and Sant Julià de Cerdanyola will stop the advance of darkness once more, enabling the sun to grow stronger in the heavens day by day. Whoever decides to come will bear witness to an exceptional ritual that remains unchanged in its essence over the course of centuries. Residents of Bagà and Saint Julia de Cerdanyola would love to share this festival with you.
 
 
Due to its exceptional character, the Fia-faia festival will soon be recognised as a National Festival of Local Interest.

Xavier Pedrals Costa