Every 23rd June on the night of Sant Joan, a special celebration full of magic, music, and dancing under the stars is held. This is the longest night of the year and welcomes the Spanish midsummer solstice. In Barcelona, it is also known as the Nit del Foc or Nit de las Bruixes. You will also often hear this festival be called 'La revetlla de Sant Joan' in Spanish or Catalan 'Nit de Foc' (night of fire), which describes Sant Joan perfectly.
Photo: © Reni Wu Photography
The roots of this festival are lost in time and go back to long before the arrival of Christianity. It is believed that its most remote origin began in Greek pagan celebrations in the honour of Apollo, where, the current Sant Joan bonfires were lit. Be that as it may, this holiday worships the sun and the arrival of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. The main event is about building a fire to give more power to the sun, because the arrival of the summer solstice was becoming weaker and therefore the days were getting shorter. The idea is that on the night of this important event, the sun reachest its maximum point, before starting to set gradually down. In addition, it was believed that the flames had a purifying action on those who watched or jumped over them. Later in history, this celebration would be continued by Christians and adopted a new and very different meaning: the celebration of the birth of San Juan Bautista. The Bible tells us that the father of Sant Juan ordered a fire to announce the birth of his son, Juan Bautista.
Just like any other tradition, Barcelona celebrates its biggest party on 23rd June by dressing up and numerous activities for all ages are held as a result. The most significant and traditional is the Flame of Canigó in Sant Jaume Square, that same day in the afternoon, which is the official time to light bonfires. In the most important areas, numerous festivals that put the rhythm into to this magical night take place. The most popular are Marina de Port Vell, where you can enjoy Diables del Port concert as well as large portions of food served at Casc Antic. As it's a night of fireworks, you won't get much sleep so you might as well come and join the party. This festival is very much a family celebration for all ages to enjoy.