UNESCO HERITAGE

ON December 1, 2015, UNESCO inscribed “The Summer Solstice Fire Festivals in the Pyrenees: Fallas, Halhes and Brandons” on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Patrimoine Unesco

WHAT IS THE REPRESENTATIVE LIST OF THE INTANGIBLE HERITAGE?

Intangible Cultural Heritage is part of UNESCO’s declarations for the preservation of heritage and was born from the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003. Intangible heritage is defined as “the set of creations based on tradition of a cultural community expressed by a group or by individuals and responding to the expectations of a community to the extent that they reflect its cultural and social identity”.

The Representative List includes those celebrations or elements of intangible heritage that meet a series of criteria such as intangible heritage, the fact that the inscription contributes to their awareness and dialogue, that they contain safeguard measures and that their candidacy has been the result of a participatory process. See the content of the lists here

THE CANDIDATURE OF THE FIRE FESTIVALS

The presentation of the UNESCO nomination was led by the Govern d’Andorra. It was the result of a long work coordinated and promoted by the “fallaires” communities, by non-governmental organizations and by the three states that submitted the candidacy: Andorra, France and Spain. The presentation dossier included 63 populations. The application was accompanied by different documents where the local governments and the organizations linked to the festivals included the different names and characteristics of the festivals.

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INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR LOCAL HOLIDAYS

The UNESCO registration implied international recognition for local festivals that have a long history. Although the essence of the festivals is its local character and belongs to each of the communities that celebrate it, the candidacy has allowed a certain coordination between the different communities that organize the festivals. On December 3, 2015, the “Declaration of Andorra la Vella” was signed in Andorra between the fault communities of the three states, with the intention of coordinated management of the safeguarding and management of the parties. The recognition of the festivals is also the recognition of the Pyrenees as a place with strong cultural roots.

Les festivals du feu du solstice d'été dans les Pyrénées

THE DESCRIPTION OF THE PARTY BY UNESCO

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.

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