The street party is at the centre of Spanish life and the hottest date in the Catalonian diary has to be 23 June, the Nit de Sant Joan. This midsummer solstice celebration takes place on the eve of the feast of St John the Baptist, or Sant Joan in Catalonia.
As darkness falls, the whole landscape will be lit up by thousands of ‘hogueras’ (bonfires), the inauguration of an all-night fiesta of music, dancing, revelry and pyromania. Fire, traditionally celebrated at the summer solstice as a symbol of abundance, purity and fertility, is the central theme of this magical Pagan festival. Fires are lit on the summit of Mount Canigo and from there carried by torchbearers to light bonfires across the region. The ‘Canigo flame’ is set to arrive in Girona at 7pm in Placa del Vi.
This is possibly the region’s most exciting night of the year and the central location of Camiral gives you a multitude of options from where to go to enjoy it. For the ultimate party atmosphere, head to the beach in Barcelona, where all-night revellers will be setting off rockets and ‘petardos’ (firecrackers), dancing around bonfires to live music from the chiringuitos (beach bars) and leaping into the sea at midnight in a traditional purification ceremony.
Alternatively, you may prefer to enjoy the street party atmosphere closer to home in Girona’s Placa del Vi. Along with the arrival of the Canigo flame, you will have the opportunity to witness two of the most remarkable traditions of the Catalans: a breathtaking human tower display from the famous Castellers and the ‘Ball de Gegants’ dance where giant statues ‘dance’ through the streets (see the below video for some Ball de Gegants live action). Folk music concerts will take place throughout the evening alongside the famous Cercavila parade.
You could even take part in some of the traditional rituals of fire purification – locals will be burning furniture to cleanse sins and mark ‘out with the old, in with the new’. It is also said you will live happily ever after by clasping the hand of your loved one and leaping over a bonfire seven times – one to avoid we think!
Wherever you choose to celebrate, make sure you try the Coco de Sant Joan, a traditional sponge cake made with custard and crystallised fruit, and the famous Cava sparkling wine. Have you ever experienced the Nit de Sant Joan? Do tell us about your thoughts.
For more information Barcelona city will soon be launching a dedicated Sant Joan website: keep an eye out here for more details.