As it does each year, the Festival of Sant Joan falls on the 23rd of June. On that particular date of the year, we celebrate the shortest night of the year, the Summer Solstice! The following day is a public holiday in Catalunya so that everyone can rest from the previous crazy night. All around Barcelona you will hear the constant crackling of fireworks shot up from seemingly every rooftop of the city. If you happen to be in Barcelona on this day, you will for sure not miss it!
History of Sant Joan Festival
The Festival Sant Joan Festival celebrates the first day of summer (known as the Summer Solstice in England) and also the 24th of June, which is the longest day of the year. This day also coincides with the birthday of Sant Jean-Baptiste, it is one of the most symbolic and significant nights in the Catholic calendar. It has now been a 50th years tradition for the Barcelonian.
Rituals involve purifying fire, midnight baths, songs, dances and other magical rituals and cures. The celebration also calls for a feast, as the sun reaches its highest point and then slowly begins to descend. The three most recognized symbols of the Festival of Sant Joan are: fire, which symbolizes the purity of the sun and the reason for the sun staying lit; water, which symbolizes healing, and explains why you will find many religious people bathing in the sea on this day; and herbs, which symbolize remedy.
What can you do on this day?
At fist, Barcelona locals usually watch the fireworks from their home balconies or rooftop terraces with all of their friends and families. Afterward, they tend to go where all the festivities happens: by the beach. There are usually no major official fireworks displays on Sant Joan day. However, there will be a small display from the roof of the town hall on Plaça de Sant Jaume around 7.30pm to welcome the “flame of Canigò” to the city. The municipality will be giving away rosemary plants if you assist to the opening.
Many visitors like to join the other the majority of the people who spend Sant Joan celebrations on one of the Barcelona beaches. But if you´re planning to experience the fireworks from Barceloneta, make sure to get there early. The beach begins filling up in the early evening with groups who bring picnic baskets and bottles of Cava to watch the fireworks and dance around the bonfires! You can stroll around the city center if the beaches get too crowded.
Keep an eye open since there are displays in different plaça of Barcelona. For instance, at Ciutat Vella, there is the arrival of the Camigó Flame and lighting of the bonfire in Plaça del Poeta Boscà. Followed by a night of fire with a Devils show in Plaça de la Barceloneta. In Eixample, you can find the arrival of the Canigó Flame, a revetlla party, and a bonfire in Sant Antoni. To find more information on the different displays, you can read the official planning here.
The Festival has also its signature dessert dish called Coca. On the 23rd and maybe a few days before/after, you will see these cakes in every bakery of the city. You will find various types of Coca, both sweet and savory. The Sant Joan Coca, specifically, are a bit thicker and fluffier, topped with candied fruit and nuts or cream.
If you prefer to avoid the craziness of the beach but still see the fireworks, you can also go to the hills of Montjuïc and watch the city from above. At the Montjuïc castle, you can organize a nice picnic with friends while watching the firework displays all over the city. To find accommodation in this area, check out our Apartments in Sants – Montjuïc.
photo credits: es.blog.espaibarcelona.com