The Summer Solstice welcoming celebration -on the shortest night of the year- is known in Catalonia as Sant Joan. For Catalan people it is something like a Summer’s New Year’s Eve. On Saint John Day, 24th of June, it is bank holiday in Catalonia and on the night of the 23rd, open air parties take place on streets, squares, beaches, private terraces, everywhere people gather together to have dinner and celebrate the arrival of the Summer outside their home.
Bonfires of Saint John
The tradition says that on the night of Sant Joan, evil spirits should be driven away in bonfires made up of old stuff. People bring all objects they wish to burn, put them together and set fire on the bonfires so that they will be cleansed and purified, and their problems will be burned away! The story says that flames that lit these bonfires are flames that have been spread from the Flame of Canigó, a flame that comes from a 3000 meters mountain in the Pyrenees. In Barcelona, the town council authorities welcome the Flame of Canigó in an institutional ceremony. Then, representatives of each district, take the flames that will lit the bonfires spread throughout the city.
Firecrackers and Fireworks
The Night of Sant Joan is also known as The Night of the Fire, not only because the tradition of the bonfires, but also because it is the night of firecrackers and fireworks. It is tradition that in Sant Joan’s celebrations people burn firecrackers of all kind on the streets, and the repeated cracking sounds are heard everywhere all night long. Sant Joan is an exceptional night where firecrackers are permitted regardless of any legislation on noise. In some towns, there are also fireworks shows, the most spectacular are the ones on the beaches with the fireworks exploding above the sea.
Coca de Sant Joan
As most Catalan traditions, Sant Joan Festival also involves a food tradition. Apart from Cava, present in almost any celebration, what it is typical to eat in Sant Joan’s dinner is the Coca de Sant Joan, a special cake baked with cream or marzipan and fruits or pine nuts on top.
Two days after the Summer solstice, Catalans celebrate the beginning of Summer with a Festival that lasts all night long. If you are in Catalonia on the night of 23rd June, you will inevitably notice that there is a celebration going on. If the noise of hundreds of firecrackers does not let you sleep, the best advice is to join the party and be part of this crazy magical night.