Saint John’s Eve is celebrated throughout Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, commemorating the summer solstice, an event of pagan origin.
It closely coincides with the longest day of the year, and is particularly fêted in Barcelona, where numerous activities and celebrations take place till sunrise, and especially on the city’s beaches.
Although the biggest celebrations take place on the night of the 23rd, when people party around bonfires to the sound of music, rockets and fireworks till dawn, the actual holiday is the following day, on the 24th June. Bonfires are symbolically lit in order to drive away bad omens and evil spirits. It is traditional to eat “coca”, a pastry decorated with glacé fruit, confectioner’s custard or marzipan, and washed down with a glass of good cava.
The lighting of the Canigó Flame is undoubtedly the main event in many towns and villages around Catalonia. In Barcelona, the flame is brought down from the mountain to Plaça Sant Jaume, in an event in which the city’s “giants” and big heads also take part. There, it is distributed onto separate torches and carried to light the bonfires in each district of the city. Each neighbourhood organises its own street parties, with al fresco dinners, bonfires, dances, devils and fire-breathing dragons – animals that are traditionally associated with Catalan folklore, fireworks and traditional music.