Sant Joan Festival is Spain’s and Barcelona’s celebration that marks the official start of summer and what better way to celebrate this than with a bang! When all of Spain celebrates the shortest night of the year, the summer solstice, which is the day that has the longest period of daylight in the year, on the 23rd of June.
Sant Joan is one of Barcelona’s biggest parties, noisiest and possibly the craziest. It’s a night of Fire, Fireworks, Coca cakes (sweet flat bread, topped with pine nuts or candied fruits) and Cava, but not of sleep. You will not get much sleep on the night of the 23rd of June in Barcelona, so you might as well join the party.
The Sant Joan festival has many names, but in Catalonia and Barcelona it is most often called the Nit de Sant Joan which translates to St John’s Night. You also often hear it called ‘La revetlla de Sant Joan’ in Catalan or in Spanish ‘Verbenas de Sant Joan’. Even just ‘Nit de Foc’ – NIGHT OF FIRE!
The idea of this festival is that on the night of Sant Joan the sun reaches its highest point, before beginning to drop. The sun is seen as a symbol of fertility and wealth and so it must be given strength. The strength is provided by bonfires and fireworks lit throughout the city for Sant Joan.
The main aspect to the celebrations is fireworks. In the days leading up to the celebrations you will see temporary fireworks shops open up throughout the city, with queues down the street. Many groups of families and friends organise their own parties – known as ‘Reveltes’. Barcelona is a city made up of balconies and terraces, therefore those with the largest balcony or the best views of the city invite friends and family to watch fireworks, eat and dance the night away.
But the most common place for people to head to for Sant Joan is the beach. Barceloneta beach begins filling up during the early evening on the start of celebration day, with groups who bring picnics and cava to watch the fireworks displays and listen to the music playing in the chiringuitos (beach bars).
This is very much a family festival and generally the locals of Barcelona gather on squares and beaches to eat together, watch the bonfires and light fireworks crackers. Even tho this is a family holiday if you are going to the beach on this magical night make sure to keep safe your bags, since it’s one of the worst nights for pickpockets in Barcelona.
The next day is a public holiday in Barcelona. You will find that most of the bars, shops, restaurants are closed for the day. On this day in Barcelona there is a definite ‘day after’ feeling in the air. The only people that you are likely to see in the streets are the bin men working diligently to clean up the fireworks packets, beer bottles and streamers that line the pavements. Many people will have danced until the early morning and so curtains are closed as people sleep off hangovers.
We love Barcelona. We love Catalonia. We want you to fall in love with it too!