Fires de Saint Narcis Festival
At the beginning of November, I had the pleasure of attending the Fires de Saint Narcis festival in Girona, Spain. This was my first time at the Fires de Saint Narcis and I had a wonderful time learning about the history of Girona and experiencing its culture.
The Fires de Saint Narcis festival is a week-long festival to celebrate the patron saint of Girona, Saint Narcis. A quick summary of why Saint Narcis is the patron Saint: the French invaded Girona in 1285 and put the city under siege. In an effort to lower the morale of the citizens of Girona, the French broke into the tomb of Saint Narcis and desecrated his remains by leaving them in the street. The legend goes that the citizens returned the Saint’s remains to his tomb and suddenly clouds of flies started to immerge from the Saint’s body. The swarm of flies then proceeded to leave the tomb and attack the French invaders and their horses until they fled the city. Talk about an awesome story! Every year the city of Girona organizes the Fires de Saint Narcis to honor the Saint and you can see the symbol of the fly everywhere. The festival showcases the best of Catalan culture with both old and new.
We kicked off our time at the Fires de Saint Narcis by joining in the Passejada pel Barri Vell amb els Capgrossos de Girona which is a traditional parade for children where a story is told by following the characters through different areas of town. There are several locations on the route and at each new stop, a new character joins the story. The characters wear giant papier mache heads and tell the stories in the Catalan language while dancing and singing. As the crowd walks to each new location, a marching band plays music for the group and children are encouraged to make noise as they join in on the fun.
Although I do not speak Catalan, I had a great time watching the show. My favorite character was a village woman who throws cabbage leaves at the children – some of the children even booed her, ha! At the end of the parade, all of the characters do an intricate dance routine which was very impressive considering the giant heads they were wearing.
Later in the day, I went to see the Castells (the Catalan human towers) on the Rambla. I did not know much about the Castell tradition and was anticipating that I would see maybe one or two Castells during the gathering since I naively thought that it would take a long time to form a human tower – boy was I wrong! I cannot even remember how many Castells I saw, but there were four groups who were doing them back to back for two hours straight. Each Castell was slightly different whether it was in height, shape, construction, or tricks they pulled off. I saw a Castell that rotated, one that was like a Russian nesting doll with another tiny Castell inside of it, and one with children playing instruments.
The Castell typically consists of men on the bottom, followed by women, followed by children, and then topped with a small child that is between 4-7 years old. It was amazing to see these human towers that were two stories high and then a small girl wearing a helmet climbing up the bodies to get on top and blow a kiss – unreal!
After watching the Castells, I walked over to the carnival area in search of dinner. While I was walking through the stalls, I could not help but laugh thinking about the differences between an American Carnival (such as a County Fair) and a Catalunya Carnival. The food options were amazing – xurro stands, whole roasted pigs, sausages on sausages, hot chestnuts, roasted sweet potatoes, among countless other goodies. Compared to deep fried Twinkies and giant hot dogs, I would pick Catalunya carnival food anytime.
There were lots of carnival rides with colorful light displays. I did not ride anything while I was there (too much chorizo for me!), but I was very tempted to enter the lottery for an Iberico Jamon. If only I could find a way to bring a Jamon leg on the plane back to Austria…
The first Saturday of the Fires de Saint Narcis is the evening of the Correfoc (meaning “fire run”). The Correfoc was easily the highlight of my entire trip in Spain, I had so much fun. The Correfoc during the Fires de Saint Narcis begins with a procession through the old city filled with fireworks, loud drums, and people dressed as devils. The wild and loud procession lead everyone up to an old square where the real show took place.
I loved how they decorated the entrance to the old square as a demon’s mouth – spooky!
Once I arrived at the old square, there was a little show to kick off the next part of the Correfoc. There was a stage with a large screen showing projections of wildlife in red while men dressed in business suits sat at the stage with computer monitors symbolizing the evils of soulless corporations. Once they all arrived on the stage, music started and it got WILD!!! There were large sculptures that were wheeled out into the audience loaded with fireworks. As an audience member, you are encouraged to run out under the fireworks and dance around with the devils at your own risk. I, of course, was out there dancing with the devils all through the night. The Correfoc goes on for a long time and there are lots of sculptures and fireworks displays that go off during the event. At the very end of the Correfoc, a big fireworks display takes places before everyone slowly leaves the square in search of other festivities for the night.
I had a fantastic time at the Fires de Saint Narcis and it was an experience I will never forget. I hope that I can go again another year in the future, but for now, I am just happy that I was able to participate in this rad tradition.