Barcelona’s observation of the summer solstice is a fiesta called Saint John’s Night. (La Noche de Sant Juan in Spanish; La Nit de Sant Joan in Catalan.) The event involves an all nighter of fireworks, moonlight swimming, bonfires on the beach, eating a special pan like pastry called coca (it can be either sweet or salty, e.g. made with candied fruits or with pine nuts) and drinking, of course — usually lots of the Catalan sparkling wine known as cava. This year’s fiesta starts at sunset on Saturday June 23rd and lasts until sunrise on Sunday.
The fiesta’s roots stretch back to the time when Mediterranean people worshipped nature. At that time one tradition was the building of bonfires on the summer solstice in order to shed light on the shortest night of the year. In the 7th century the church forbad the ritual as pagan. However, the people kept the tradition alive by Christianizing it as a homage to Saint John the Baptist.
During the Middle Ages it was believed that on this night witches and demons came out and that by jumping over a bonfire was purifying. Today some people still jump over bonfires, but the idea now is to say goodbye to the old, welcome the new and make a wish.
The fireworks are actually pretty intimidating. There don’t seem to be many governmental controls on the sale or use of fireworks here, so on Saint John’s Night it’s a case of sparklers, firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, etc. going off all around you. So, if you’re out and about, you need to take care.
Related: Summer Solstice in Spain: Fiestas of Fire!