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San Juan, the magical night of fire

By | 15 June, 2018 | 0 comments

If there’s one night of the year that’s truly magical, it has to be San Juan. The Spanish tradition of burning bonfires is still very much a part of welcoming the new summer season, burning away the bad omens and enjoying a few hours of celebration, friendship, neighbourhood spirit and plenty of good fun. Indeed, Barcelona is one of the few places where the night has even greater meaning, as they bring fire and festivals together as one. The Revetlla de Sant Joan, as the festival is commonly known throughout the city, marks a community spirit that never goes out of fashion, bringing people together, young and old.

verbena de San Juan en Barcelona

The origins of the night of San Juan date back to before Christianity arrived in the country, all related to worshipping the sun. Nevertheless, this festival is still about the summer solstice (even though the exact date falls on 21st June this year) when we see the greatest amount of daylight. The tradition of burning bonfires is designed to ward off evil spirits, which has been part of the festival since its creation and is still very much alive and well today.

In Barcelona, this magical day has always been a feature of the community, a popular celebration where neighbours and friends gather together to light fires along with some fantastic musical performances. In streets and town squares in all the city’s neighbourhoods, people come out together to throw fireworks, lighting up the night sky while people dance with verbenas to give the festival its trademark bright colour. Useless wood and old junk is burned on the fires to give way to a new dawn. In Barcelona, all the fires are lit by what’s known as the ‘Llama del Canigó’.This torch comes from a fire that never goes out, a permanent feature in the town of Castillet near Perpignan in France. On 22nd June every year, the torch is carried to the top of Canigó and then distributed throughout the city of Barcelona, meaning everyone can light their own bonfires from this hugely symbolic flame.

The party goes on until well into the early hours, with dancing on the embers and huge firework displays when the music never stops. It’s a time to wonder about the exciting summer ahead, where your problems can be left behind and revellers can enjoy the friendship and community in their neighbourhoods. All the fun and joy is had now, as the evil is burned on the fire.

And, as with every Spanish festival, there’s always something on offer to sweeten proceedings, something San Juan certainly doesn’t forget about. Cocas are another of Barcelona’s cherished traditions, sold in their hundreds in bakeries and pastry shops across the city at this time of year. It’s a fruity treat containing pine nuts and cream, sometimes with a marzipan filling, but always enjoyed alongside a good cava or muscatel. Custom dictates that they have to be twice as long as they are wide, with rounded edges to symbolise the day being longer than the night on the occasion of San Juan.

This thousand-year-old tradition of fire and magic is a key part of Barcelona’s culture, bringing people together on the streets for this extra-special occasion. At HCC Hotels, we’re looking forward to welcoming you to stay at one of our hotels to celebrate the festival of San Juan.

Categories: barcelona

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