It’s that time of year again: the shortest night of the year, known here as ‘Sant Joan’s Eve’. June 24 is the feast day of the saint known as Sant Joan or John the Baptist, but first comes the preceding Sunday night, one of Catalonia’s most popular festivals. Fire, music, dancing, cava and ‘coca’ cake are ubiquitous in the streets and squares for this city-wide party, which lasts through the entire night. A range of associations organise parties in the streets all across Barcelona, complete with bands and bonfires traditionally made using unwanted and unused wooden items collected throughout the year.
Perhaps the featured event of Sant Joan’s Eve is the arrival of the Canigó Flame ('la Flama del Canigó'). The fire, taken from the peak of Mount Canigó in the Pyrenees, makes its way to different locations to start Sant Joan bonfires in a distinct 64-year-old tradition meant to unite all Catalan-speaking territories. The flame will first arrive in Plaça de Sant Jaume, where, at 11am, preparation of a floral carpet begins. The flame’s reception party gets underway in the same square at 4.30pm, accompanied by music from the traditional Cobla Sant Jordi-Ciutat de Barcelona group, medicinal herbs for everyone and the distribution of lanterns. The flame’s arrival is scheduled for 6pm, along with a mini procession featuring the Barcelona Eagle and 'gegants', which are huge papier-mâché figures representing historical characters from the city. You can also witness the reading of the flame’s message, written this year by Carme Forcadell, president of the Catalan Parliament from 2015 to 2017. The fire is used to light a cauldron, and representatives from each neighbourhood take their turns going onstage to collect their part of the Flame to light their respective bonfires, ensuring that all corners of the city are touched by the flame’s significance.
Another way to really feel part of the festivities is to head to the city beaches, where hundreds of revellers gather, many of them staying to watch the sunrise on June 24. But if you're not a fan of loud noises, you may want to invest in some earplugs, as the firecrackers and fireworks will be exploding all night long across Barcelona.