In Catalunya a great deal is going on during the Summer Solstice – the shortest night of the year.
It is a public holiday renowned for the electric atmosphere in the air and the crazy parties taking place.
The Feast of Sant Joan celebrates the start of the summer.
It is the longest day of the year and one of the most important feast days for Catalans, celebrated throughout the whole city.
I am so amazed by this fest, because in Italy we celebrate the mid-summer instead of the start, but there’s no bonfires nor traditional food to eat, just fireworks and parties all over.
The idea is that on the night of Sant Joan the sun reaches its highest point, before beginning to drop.
The sun is seen as a symbol of fertility and wealth and so it must be given strength.
The strength is provided by bonfires and fireworks lit throughout the city for Sant Joan.
The Bonfires are traditionally lit with an original fire started in the mountain of the Canigó, in Northern Catalonia. The flame travels all through the Catalan speaking countries and is welcomed with different ceremonies. Normally the president of the national parliament amongst other personalities welcomes the Flame in Barcelona.
There are said to be three symbols of Sant Joan – fire, water and herbs.
Fire symbolises purity, and for this reason fires are lit.
Water symbolises healing. Therefore, in some areas, people bathe in the sea.
Herbs symbolise remedy and some claim that for the night of Sant Joan their healing qualities are enhanced one hundred times over. These are often picked on the night of Sant Joan.
Sant Joan is often described by Catalans as the ‘Nit del Foc‘ – meaning the ‘Night of Fire’.
The main aspect to the celebrations is fireworks.
Barcelona is a city made up of balconies and terraces, therefore those with the largest balcony or the best views of the city invite friends and family to watch fireworks, eat and dance the night away.
If you do not have a friend’s party to go to, the most common place for people to head to for Sant Joan is the beach.
Barceloneta beach begins filling up during the early evening on 23 June , with groups who bring picnics and cava to watch the fireworks displays and listen to the music playing in the chiringuitos (beach bars).
Groups of musicians and drummers also gather to provide the sound track to the evening’s events.
The bars along the beach front and in the surrounding areas often build special bars at the front of the building, selling drinks and snacks for the party people as they arrive at the beach.
You will also find that the squares in all of the local plazas have displays taking place.
The only official food of Sant Joan is called the ‘Coca‘.
These are bread style cakes that you will see in bakery windows throughout the city. There are various types available – both sweet and savoury. Some contain crackling, fruit and nuts or cream. The one ingredient that they all share in common is anise – giving all of the Coques a distinctive aniseed flavour.
Also macaroons and herbs with ice are often given for free along the beach and in other spots.
The Feast of Sant Joan is one of the most exciting times of the year to be in Barcelona.
At the start of summer, there is already a feeling of excitement in the air.
Infact if you ask any catalan or expatriats, they will all answer to you that June is the best month of the year to be experienced in Barcelona (Primavera Sound, Sonar Festival, Sant Joan and much more is going on).
*Do not expect any events in particular to be taking place – simply gather up your friends, some food and drink and hit the streets to enjoy the fest.
If you are in Barcelona during this period there is no way that you will miss the date – fires in the streets and the constant crack of fireworks will make sure of that!
I even delayed my flight back to Italy which was supposed to be on the 24th morning, in order not to miss it!
Here you can find the link to the Facebook event occuring en la playa de la Barceloneta: https://www.facebook.com/events/629058093890845/
*The celebrations take place on 23 June each year but the actual feast day is on the 24 June.
The 23 June – Midsummer’s Eve is not a public holiday, so you will find all of the bars, shops, restaurants open. However the 24 June is a public holiday in Barcelona, so most bars, shops, restaurants are closed for the day. On this day the only people that you are likely to see in the streets are the bin men working diligently to clean up the fireworks packets, beer bottles and streamers that lay around. Most of the people will have danced until the early morning and so everyone is home sleeping off hangovers.
As the beach tends to get busy, it is a good idea to head down there before it gets dark (21:00) to claim a spot.
Bring blankets and warm layers for when the sun goes down.
You may find it difficult to find any official information about what is taking place in the local barrios. During the day and early evening, keep your eyes wide open for squares where displays are being set up and prepared for the evening.
If you wish to experience the magic without being caught up in the craziness of the beach, you may wish to head into the hills and watch the city from above.
You could go up to Montjuïc castle or to the Bunker del Carmelo (see my other article about it: https://anoutsiderinbcn.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/bunker-del-carmelo/) and watch the firework displays taking place all over the city.
But enough with the talking, while waiting for the day to come, I will leave you with this amazing video that explains it well and gives the perfect sense of this amazing traditional day/fest!
Enjoy the Magic!
If you have any consideration or comment you feel like sharing or adding, please do not hesitate 🙂