San Juan

June 24th is “San Juan”. Despite being a bank holiday in some areas of Spain, celebrations actually take place on the 23rd, in the festival known as “Verbena de San Juan”.

The festival consists on a dinner party with friends or family, during which people traditionally drink cava and eat “coca de San Juan” (a sweet bread with fruit confit). It’s also very common to light firecrackers and fireworks on the streets, big squares or terraces. There are also bonfires in which people burn old furniture, and in coastal cities many people bathe in the sea at night as a purification ritual.

This festival originated before Christianity. It used to take place on June 21st as the celebration of the summer solstice in the shortest night of the year.  The Church later adapted it to its religious calendar, aligning the celebrations with the birth of San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist) on June 23rd-24th.

Nowadays, the oldest purification rituals haven’t changed, like burning old stuff or bathing in the sea. Still, San Juan is celebrated slightly in different ways across Spain, with Catalonia and Valencia being particularly keen on fireworks. In those regions, June 24th is a bank holiday.

Have you celebrated San Juan in Spain? What do you think of this festival?


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