St. John's night

Article

July 5, 2022

The night of Sant Joan, also popularly called the festival of Sant Joan, the night of the fire, the night of the witches or the night of the blond, is celebrated all over the Catalan Countries, and in other parts of the world, during the night between June 23 and 24. The day of Sant Joan, often considered the National Day of the Catalan Countries, is June 24, but the festival of Sant Joan is celebrated on the night of the 23rd. It is a night in which the summer solstice is celebrated, with some days of delay. It is a celebration that the Catholic Church coincides with the date of birth of St. John the Baptist and has become a holiday with very marked and symbolic elements and customs: the purifying fire, the midnight baths, the herbs of St. John, the songs, dancing or healings and more magical rituals. The origin of the celebration of the night of San Juan is pagan and is part of the group of solstice celebrations, like Christmas. With a tradition that dates back to long before the implantation of Christianity, it is a cult to the sun, to the lengthening of the day, for the summer solstice. Celebrations have fire as a characteristic element. Communal, family and individual bonfires are made and according to the tradition of each locality many different ones are mounted or they are only made in a specific square or street, traditionally with useless wooden objects that have been accumulated throughout the year. Pyrotechnics has a prominent place in the celebrations. Gastronomically, they are usually accompanied by family reunions in the evenings of this date with the coca de Sant Joan, recapte or llardons.

Catalan speaking territories

History

The origin of this celebration is not at all clear. It comes from a fairly old tradition and could be at least over 5 centuries old. Some see it as a pre-Christian pagan origin, a kind of revival of the summer solstice festivities. In this sense, there is the belief that flames drive away and frighten imaginary beings who only camp during that night or that if they also roam during the rest of the year, on this day they do so more intensely and in greater numbers. Others see it as a mocking and cheerful origin in the fact that it is the farthest night from Christmas and should therefore be the most cursed and loved by the devil. Eighteenth-century laws have been collected that sought to curb people’s games with fireworks tonight, but to no avail. During the Franco regime, an attempt was made to put an end to the party, considering it pagan and unbecoming of the Christian people, but everywhere it was continued clandestinely without being able to be stopped. Among the beliefs around bonfires are those who believe that bonfires have the virtue of clearing the sky of evil clouds capable of carrying hail, so they need to be lit once a year so that it does not rock and weather. . The first documented reference to the festival in Barcelona dates from the 15th century. In Barcelona it is documented that in the 15th century bonfires, firecrackers, bathing in the sea and debauchery in the streets were already the protagonists of the party. It is noteworthy that a man as detailed and versed in explaining the customs of the time as Cervantes made his Don Quixote go to Barcelona just on Saint John's Day and did not make a single mention of tradition. On the other hand, a norm of the City council of Barcelona of the year 1780 is conserved in which the bonfires within the walls of the city for this celebration were prohibited specifically, reason why it could be deduced that then the party had already become popular. It was a widespread tradition to burn four bonfires, one on each corner of the farmhouse; in this way they protected her from all kinds of evils. Sometimes only at the entrance, for the same purpose. But it has always been tried to prevent them in cities, because of the logical dangers it entails. The custom seems to have been lost, but emulating the custom of the Carnival King, it was absolute