Catalunya has a lot of traditional festivals and one of the most favorites is Nit de Sant Joan celebrated on Summer Solstice – the shortest night of the year.
Let’s have a look at the roots of this feast and find out why exactly is it became so popular locally.
Tradition of the Nit de Sant Joan
Night of Sant Joan coincides with Summer Solstice known in most of the European countries and began from the same pagan feast dedicated to the year’s longest day and shortest night. As in other pagan traditions, fire, water, and herbs are the main symbols of this holiday.
This night only, fires are permitted and lit everywhere, especially on the beaches where all the people come to find the second symbol, water.
You wouldn’t probably see much herbs but they are being sometimes thrown to the fires for the smell. Tradition says herbs are hundred times stronger this night and due to sometimes recollected during this feast.
Canigó, Revetlla and Coca during Nit de Sant Joan
The most recent tradition of celebrating Sant Joan in Catalunya started 50 years ago when in 1955 inspired by poem Canigó by Jacint Verdaguer, Francesc Pujades lights the bonfire at the top of Canigou mountain to then share it and light other fires in the region.
And so year to year this fire is renewed on Canigó and taken by volunteers through the country which reminds me of another tradition related with lighting the fire.
Mountain Canigou, located in French Pyrenees(earlier part of Catalunya), was actually renamed to Canigó a few years ago by french authorities and recognized valuable for Catalan culture. In Barcelona,
In Barcelona, Canigó’s flame arrives in the afternoon of 23rd on Plaza de Sant Jaume met by city’s authorities, local people and representatives of each neighborhood.
It will be taken to light the local neighborhood bonfires by representatives later that day so everyone could share it. It’s extremely beautiful, uniting and touching to see so many people coming to see flame’s arrival in town.
Sant Joan celebrations are especially loved by the kids because it coincides with the first day of their summer holidays, and it’s the only day when they could use fireworks without restrictions for the whole night. Local authorities kindly help to spread it by posting the locations of firework shops and kiosks.
If you happen to have the old wardrobe you’d like to burn either than to throw away, save it for the next Sant Joan’s because you’d be able to literally burn it.
Every neighborhood makes this huge bonfire where all the old things are eventually brought and built into a huge pyre.
Later in the evening, people get together for more intimate celebrations called La Revetlla with their friends or families, bringing food, wines, Cava, and a special cake called Coca de Sant Joan.
Sant Joan dinner doesn’t have any specialties except Coca but this cake makes it up for three others! It is prepared with dried fruits, nuts and anise seeds to bring in its unique taste and aroma.
It’s sold in all and every pastry in Barcelona but if you shall consider cooking it yourself at home, check out our post where we shared super secret Coca de Sant Joan recipe.
After dinner, all the people come to the beach to stay out late(sometimes till the first light) and enjoy the first night of the summer, as locals humbly believe.
Summer, in their opinion, only starts this night and they meet it with bonfires, fireworks and open heart.
Share this post if you enjoyed it and want your friends to join you and light the fire of Canigó on the night of Sant Joan!