22 Jun 2017
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS.- “Nit de Sant Joan”. The summer arriving.
The ‘Nit de Sant Joan’, a festival unchanged in over 500 years.
When we say the ‘Nit de Sant Joan’ (St John’s Eve) is one of the city’s oldest festivals, we’re not saying it just for the sake of it: the basic elements – lighting bonfires, throwing firecrackers and filling the public space – have remained unchanged since the Middle Ages. The first documented reference to this midsummer festival dates from the 15th century but the revetlla has had to overcome all kinds of periods and circumstances to survive so many years.
Until the 18th century the popular night-time festival, was a wild celebration with fires and fireworks, existed alongside the ceremonial one organised by the authorities during the day. Then, following the defeat of 1714, bans were introduced to stop people celebrating the revetlla, lighting bonfires and setting off firecrackers. Despite that, the people of Barcelona kept the tradition alive. By the end of the 19th century all the elements were in place that make up the festival we know today and continue to celebrate on the city’s streets and squares.
Sant Joan is the oldest popular festival in the city. While there are other celebrations, such as Christmas, that precede it, they don’t have the public character that Sant Joan does, because they are celebrated in private, rather than out on the streets. To show how, essentially, it has remained unchanged for over 500 years.
It also highlights how all the institutional attempts to change the festival, by holding organised celebrations, for example, have ended in failure. All they have succeeded in doing is to reinforce the popular element and ensure its survival. Another characteristic feature of Sant Joan night is its chaotic character, with thousands of people on the streets, big bonfires and firecrackers everywhere, although people behave responsibly and there are rarely any incidents or disturbances.
Despite repeated efforts since the 18th century, the authorities have been unable to control the festival. So, after seeing time and again how people ignored the bans, in recent years they have opted to regulate what, in their eyes, could be dangerous and get out of control. Sant Joan may be characterised by a night of unrestrained revelry but life returns to normal the following day.1 / 1
The Revetlla de Sant Joan is one of the most traditional popular festivals in the Països Catalans [Catalan countries] . The main features of these celebrations are bonfires, music, dancing and coca tarts. there are a lot of organisations in Barcelona that put on revetlla celebrations in the city’s streets and squares, with orchestras, dancing and, in some cases, bonfires .
Bonfires in city squares and on crossroads are the most spectacular and outstanding feature of the Revetlla de Sant Joan.
The arrival of the Canigó Flame with a big celebration
For 62 years now the fire of the Canigó Flame has, in a single night, the Nit de Sant Joan, covered all the Catalan-speaking lands. Hundreds of cities, town and villages in the Països Catalans (Catalan Lands) organise celebrations it and for many years now is the main event, where there is fire, music, coca (a flat cake) and fireworks. Afterwards, the fire lit at the top of Canigó continues on its way to light the twenty or so bonfires in Catalan country
The Canigó Flame gets festivities under way on the eve of Sant Joan and this year reaches its 50th anniversary.
The Nit de Sant Joan (St John’s Eve) is a magic night of wonders reserved only for key and important dates in the calendar, such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Dates when the sense of beginning, change and the renewal of time is more explicit. Spells, ordeals and formulas have come down to us thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of folklore specialists to collect them at the end of the 19th century.
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COME TO HAVE SOME FAMILY FUN NEAR BARCELONA
Beaches, mountains and villages in the regions of Barcelona offer many attractions to discover as a family. Fun activities tailored for small children and designed to also please the adults.