How do we celebrate the Feast of Sant Joan in Catalunya? Back to the origins of the Feast

How do we celebrate the Feast of Sant Joan in Catalunya? Back to the origins of the Feast

Back to the origins of the Feast


The Feast of Sant Joan celebrates everywhere in the world the summer solstice. Even if the Church promotes it as a catholic event to honour Sant Joan-Baptiste, its origins dates back to some millenaries. In fact, Phenicians already used to honour Tammuz – God of abundance – in the Ancient Mesopotamia one day before the summer solstice. In Europe, the Celtics used to light bonfires at the same time of the year when they arrived in Brittany 1500 years before the birth of Christ. These celebrations with guidance from the druids aimed at evading evil spirits to keep water healthy and the harvests generous.

The tradition had lasted for centuries. However, in the fifth century, the Church associated it to a pagan celebration and they had to face to its huge popularity. Therefore, they decided to adopt it and linked it to a Christian celebration to honour Sant Joan-Baptiste on June 24th. Songs and dances were then accompanied with a Mass… and the bonfires were maintained as part of the tradition.


The Feast of Sant Joan in Catalunya


We always celebrate Sant Joan everywhere in Catalunya with bonfires and fireworks. In 1955, thanks to Francesc Pujades, a bonfire was lit at the top of the Canigou peak during the night of the summer solstice. This is the origin of the current tradition. In fact, each year on June 22nd, several groups of people hike to the Canigou peak and light a bonfire with small fagots of vine shoots. The day after,  each group keeps a part of it and distributes it to the villages they came from, in every part of Catalunya (France and Spain). Therefore, at 11 pm, each village has its own bonfire! In Perpignan, the bonfire is maintained at the foot of the Castillet. Several other traditions come with it. For instance, you can taste the famous, and delicious “coca” accompanied with a nice glass of “cava” (white wine). It is a traditional cake made up of eggs, butter, flour, milk, cream, candied fruits, almond pasta and chocolate. To end with the night, you will probably enjoy a fantastic firework.