Saint John’s Eve, La Revetlla de Sant Joan or the Nit del Foc (night of fire) as the Catalans call it, is one of the most important traditional celebrations in Catalonia. It is a magical night, where bonfires and fire are the real protagonists and everyone should experience at least once in life. This year visit Figueres, Girona or Barcelona with the high-speed trains Renfe-SNCF in Cooperation and enjoy this amazing tradition up close.
It is originally a pagan festivity, celebrated as veneration of the sun and beginning of summer solstice. However, the Catholic Church made it coincide with the birth of John the Baptist, reason why the celebration now takes place on the evening of June 23.
It is said to be the shortest night of the year and is characterized by its great symbolism. Bonfires invade beaches, villages and towns, and family and friends gather together to dance around the fire, throw firecrackers and eat the traditional Coca de Sant Joan. The fire is a symbol of purification and renewed energy used to drive evil spirits away.
Firecrackers - Sant Joan celebration
In 1955, Francesc Pujada, citizen of the village of Vallespir (north Catalonia), inspired by the poem Canigó by Jacint Verdaguer, started the tradition of what today is known as ‘La flama del Canigó’ (The flame of Canigó). Every June 22 a group of hikers from the Cercle des Jeunes de Perpignan get to the top of the Canigó Mountain and light a bonfire. On the morning of 23 various volunteers take down a torch with a flame from the Canigó they use to light all the bonfires of the surrounding towns and villages. Nowadays this tradition has gained so strength that almost all villages of northern Catalonia light their bonfires like this.
Bonfire - Sant Joan celebration
Gastronomically speaking, this festivity cannot be understood without the famous Coca de Sant Joan or Coca de llardons. It is a cake made of a dough of flour and sugar coated with pieces of candied fruit, pine nuts or pork rind. Besides, there is also the Coca de Recapte, a puff pastry cake coated with baked peppers and eggplant, and sometimes improved with sardines, herrings or sausages.
It is a celebration that stretches on until sunrise and usually offers good temperatures. For this reason, many people make the most of it and take their first sea bath in the season. Firecrackers are also great protagonists of the celebration and many towns offer magnificent fireworks.