The Eye

Llorenç del Penedès

Photo: Courtesy of town council

Night of fire and witches

Saint John’s Eve is one of Catalonia’s most important, and most popular, annual festivals. The Revetlla de Sant Joan, also known as the Nit del Foc (Night of Fire) or the Nit de les Bruixes (Night of the Witches), takes place on the evening of June 23 every year as a festivity celebrated all over the country that coincides with the summer solstice. In fact, even though the next day is a public holiday to celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist, the festival has preserved its pre-Christian origins, as seen by the tradition of lighting bonfires, to chase away evil spirits. Fireworks also play a big role in the festival and it provides the perfect opportunity to see diables (people dressed as devils) dancing around the bonfires beneath the spray of sparks from the fireworks they swing around their heads on poles to the beating rhythm of drums. Local authorities will also often organize impressive firework displays.

As is usual with festivals in Catalonia, the Revetlla de Sant Joan comes with its own special food, in this case Coca de Sant Joan, a flat sweet bread topped with marzipan, custard or cream as well as pine nuts and candied fruit. And, as with most Catalan celebrations, there is usually no shortage of cava to help the festivities along.

In fact, as Saint John’s Eve is one of those nights of the year, like New Year’s Eve, in which people tend to let the hair down, it is probably a good thing that the next day is a public holiday, as a great many people in Catalonia will need a day to sleep off a long night of revelry.

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