Your Guide to the Ceret Feria
Ceret is normally a relatively sleepy town perched close to the border between France and Spain. For a few days a year the place is transformed as thousands of revellers pour into it streets along with a few bulls and horses for the annual Feria.
The celebrations span the second weekend of July each year, to coincide with Bastille day celebrations on 14th July. In our two part guide we share our experience and some tips on how to get the best out of the weekend of fun and frolics.
Is is a Fair, Bull Run or just a day off to have fun?
The word Feria is derived from the Latin translation of ‘free day’ and in Roman times signified a day in which the slaves were free from work. In Spain and southern France, Feria translates as fair (as in agricultural or food fair as opposed to something being just). In reality the feria in Ceret for us meant a day of the ‘B’s – Bullfighting, Bodegas and Boogying.
The Feria in Ceret –Is it (safe/fun) for Children?
The weekend starts on Friday morning when the Feria is officially opened by the mayor of the village with a symbolic ceremony of the handing over of the village keys. The first day events involve dance performances by local dance troupes and kid’s groups with the day focussed firmly on the children of the region.
There are children focussed activities each day and preceding the bull run on Saturday and Sunday children walk part of the run with pantomime bulls so they can feel part of the action. Once complete they can rejoin their parents safely behind the barriers that line the streets.
This soon makes way for the adults takeover of the festivities in the evening with the opening of the Bodegas (bars) dotted on every corner of the town. We will cover the Feria for adults in more detail in our next post.
Children were part of the festivities for most of the evenings we were their, and despite people being able to drink all day the place remained safe until the celebrations neared midnight and things got a little more rowdy. If I had to choose I would say the Friday evening is more family friendly.
The Bulls and the Camargue Horses
The whole of the festivities are built around the bull run . Before we get to the spectacle itself I need to set out my own attitude to these such events involving animals. For me it is quite simple, I accept wholeheartedly the arguments and sentiments of those who feel that we should not involve animals in this way for entertainment.
However, if the event is part of a traditional activity that has been going on for years then I am a lot more relaxed about witnessing it. Yes the young bulls who are chased through the streets and squares by drunken men go through distress, but they are not harmed or killed. In fact the one piece of animal torment I did see was the spur scars on the side of the Camargue horses ridden to corral the bulls through the streets.
The ethics of the event aside, it is a fun if only moderately spectacular affair; this is not Pamploma after all. The bulls (bullocks to be fair, they are very small and nothing like the size of the bulls we witnessed in Korea) are released from the back of a truck and corralled by the Camargue horses and their rides down the street. The bull and horses are followed by drunken groups of men who’s aim is the stop the bull in its tracks with their bare hands. In the end this task was achieved a couple of times as the bulls were crowded by around a dozen men. As the braver ones go for the blunted horns and slow the beast down the others join in to slow the bull to s stop with their combined weight.
A Responsible Feria: Green, Safe and Responsible
It probably a good point here to highlight the trouble the organisers go to in order to make the event run smoothly and avoid trouble even before it happens.
Alcohol and young people can often lead to some risky sex so free condoms were on offer at the official alcohol free bodega in front of the Maire (town hall). This was also the place that you could obtain a free breathalyser test to see if you were fit to drive home. Note if you are thinking of chancing driving if you have had a few don’t, the police have checkpoints on all the roads out of Ceret every year and you will be caught.
In fact there is no need to run the risk, this year buses were laid on throughout the night to get you from Ceret to the surrounding villages of St Jean, Maureillas and Le Boulou.
This year the Feria also tried to go green, instead of using disposable plastic cups, as they have in the past, you had to buy a reusable one with your first drink (along with a lanyard to keep it sloshing around your neck if you saw the need) for one euro.
You could get it refilled at any of the bodegas with your favourite tipple or cash it in and get your euro back. They went for some cutesy designs on them too so they end up back in your cupboards at home and will remind you every day how much you drank at last years celebrations.
The Feria was great fun and managed to have something for all the family, if you really don’t want to be part of the bull run, you can stay away in the afternoon and just enjoy the rest of the weekend without offending your morals.