I’m feeling very spoilt by my relocation to Palma de Mallorca. Spoilt because every day, the sun shines a little stronger and for a little longer, despite the fact that we are heading deeper into the winter. Spoilt because each week I discover some sensational new landscape a mere stone’s throw from my front door. And now spoilt because a mere 10 days after the Christmas lights were switched off after the 12th night, they are now back on again, twinkling their beautiful best in celebration of Palma de Mallorca’s patron saint: Saint Sebastian.
And as public festivals go, it looks as though this one is set to be a biggie. As I write, stages are being erected in almost every square in the city; a programme of extensive musical entertainment is waiting in the wings; and a mountain of fireworks is being heaped by the cathedral ready to be ignited. But although most of the celebrations will kick off this evening, on Saturday night, a very unique event hit the streets of Palma: the Correfoc.
Roughly translating as a firerun, there is frustratingly little that can be found on the internet to explain the history of what is ostensibly a satanic orgy of dancing demons setting off a continuum of shrieking fireworks to the beat of traditional gralla drums. But whatever the source of this tradition, this typical folk festival characteristic of a Catalan celebration is an eye-opening sight to behold. Except open your eyes too wide and you could live to regret it – for in a crowded spectacle alive with the pop and crackle of a bounty of exploding whizzing fireworks set off in all directions including over the heads of the heaving crowds, health and safety is not exactly paramount.
But everyone knows that health and safety spoils a real party, and Palma’s unrepeatable firey festival certainly proved worth the risk. Grinding dancers gyrating to the carnal rhythm of drums; horrific demon costumes silhouetted against the mass of burning fireworks; and the sound of fireworks shrieking like taunted spirits as they burst and and flew through the air; all the elements amassed to create a spectacle which felt like both a surreal nightmare and an incredible piece of performance art, and Palma’s biggest street party.
From the moment we arrived in Zaragoza in North Eastern Spain, continuing right up to (and no doubt beyond) the time we left, the city was tangibly pumping with the rhythm of fiesta. The leafy squares and vast piazzas standing amidst Zaragoza’s world-famous cathedrals were alive with open air concerts playing throughout the day and evening; the streets were packed so full of people that it took 10 minutes to make one’s way even down the shortest; the skies periodically erupted with the pop and crackle of a distant firework display; tapas bars and restaurants were full to over brimming; and the air was filled with helium balloons of every shape and size and bubbles blown by children. And despite all of the inconvenience and noise that this festival inevitably created, there is no denying the magical atmosphere that filled the air, as the whole city seemed bound by an intangible electricity of celebration, and almost the entirety of its population came out to enjoy the party, to stroll in the crowds, to listen to the live music, to dance in the streets.
This selection of photographs attempts to convey something of the atmosphere which filled every inch of Zaragoza when we made a visit the weekend before last. The reason for the festival was the Fiestas del Pilar, an annual ten day celebration, centred around a religious festival when huge crowds pay homage to the patron saint of the city: the Virgen del Pillar, but actually incorporating a packed programme of traditional music, modern pop, excuses to dance, and occasions to get out, eat and meet with loved ones and friends. And no wonder it was so crowded: for this annual festival is not only the biggest in Zaragoza, but one of the largest in all of Spain attracting thousands from outside of the city, and indeed the country: like us. It certainly was something unique, and made our visit to Zaragoza a hundred times more memorable.
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