Nit de Sant Joan

The Barcelona Revetlla

The Revetlla de Sant Joan, held on 23 June, is one of the most traditional festivals in the Països Catalans [Catalan Countries]. The main features of these celebrations are bonfires, music, dancing and coca tarts. A lot of Barcelona organisations hold revetlla celebrations in the city's streets and squares, with orchestras, dancing and, in some cases, bonfires .

But this year's Night of Sant Joan in Barcelona is special because we celebrate 50 years since the first time the Flama del Canigó arrived in the city. The year was 1967, during the Franco dictatorship, and the fire that unites all the Catalan-speaking territories was amazingly received by the mayor at the time, Josep Maria Porcioles. So this June 23 we will remember this anniversary with a very special series of events that will last all day.

50 years of The Canigó Flame in Barcelona

The Canigó Flame arrived in Barcelona for the first time in 1967, one year after the Fraternal Fire was lit at Coll d’Ares and the Flame crossed the frontier. In September 1967, the hiking magazine "Cordada" reported on this in an article entitled "The Fires of Sant Joan at the Peaks - 1967", signed by Ernest Costa. We thought it would be a good idea to reprint an extract from this, due to its contribution and documentary importance, as it is the only written source currently available.

“ Due to the City Council's opposition towards lighting fires, we discounted a fire on top of Tibidabo from the start. Meanwhile, they also had a lot of problems with forestry organisations in Vic with regard to their initial plan for lighting fire in the Matagalls.

It was therefore thought best to light the Vic bonfire in the Plaça Major, and in Barcelona, as there was no chance of lighting any fires, choosing a really representative city square as the end of the flame's journey down from the Canigó, and then handing it over to a representative from the City Council.

On Friday evening we travelled up to Vic to wait for the young people from Perpignan who were bringing the flame down through the Coll d’Ares . When we reached Barcelona we were surprised to find that the flame would be received by the Mayor himself.In Via Laietana, a lively young woman from Roussillon took the flame and, escorted by two young men, all three dressed in white and each one with a lit torch, went on foot to the entrance of City Hall, where Mayor Porcioles was waiting, much to the surprise of passers-by, as there had been no time to publicise the ceremony beyond our own circles. After some words of welcome, the Mayor invited the flame bearers to enter City Hall, “your home”, he told them.”

This first reception at Barcelona's City Hall was orchestrated by the intellectual and cultural activist Esteve Albert. However, this reception must be viewed as an isolated event, as it would not be repeated, and the Canigó Flame would be received in a semi-clandestine manner until the first democratic City Councils were elected.

From the 1970s onwards, bonfires in Barcelona suffered an evident decline, and it was precisely then that the Canigó Flame burst onto the scene.

The Canigó Flame in Barcelona changed the concept of the traditional bonfire, giving it new messages and a new interpretation. But above all, the Canigó Flame became a factor for conserving and recuperating city bonfires, as those that had been conserved and those that appeared more recently are directly linked to this phenomenon.

2017: The Canigó Flame in Barcelona

The Gathering at Canigó 2017

The Canigó Gathering is being held during the weekend of 17 and 18 June. Local people bring firewood to the top of the mountain, which will be burnt on the night of the 22nd. This year, a delegation made up of various Barcelona fire groups and other city representatives will take a bundle of firewood to the summit, made up of branches from the city's districts, which will be burnt together with bundles from other Catalan towns and cities.

The Canigó Flame arrives at Barcelona City Hall

This year, to celebrate the 50 years of the Canigó Flame's visits to the city, the Flame will be taken to Barcelona City Hall, after first being received at the Parliament of Catalonia. On arrival at Plaça de Sant Jaume, it will enter City Hall, where it will be received in the Saló de Cròniques by Jaume Collboni, the Deputy Mayor. The reception will also be attended by the hiker and geographer Ernest Costa, who played an active role in the organisation of the Canigó Flame's entrance into Barcelona in 1967. The Canigó Flame will then be solemnly safeguarded in municipal facilities until it is time to begin the main ceremony in the afternoon.

Reception of the Canigó Flame in Plaça de Sant Jaume

The Flame's reception in Plaça Sant Jaume will be accompanied by music from the Cobla Sant Jordi Ciutat de Barcelona, in the presence of the Barcelona Eagle and the City Giants. While the "cobla" band accompanies the ceremony, dozens of city associations will take the flame in order to light bonfires in their neighbourhoods.

Herbs for everyone

Barcelona City Council will give a rosemary plant to everyone attending the Canigó Flame event in Plaça Sant Jaume. In addition to fire and water, plants - rosemary, thyme, fennel, ferns, mint, etc. - are an essential feature of the Night of Sant Joan. And they have been since ancient times. There are many legends that feature plants and the Night of Sant Joan.

Returning to the neighbourhoods

Once the various fire teams have taken their Canigó Flames from the crucible in Plaça Sant Jaume, they will begin the return journey to their neighbourhoods. Two festive itineraries will start off from the square. One route will head towards the Llobregat and the other towards the Besòs, taking the Flame to the city's neighbourhoods where traditional bonfires will finally be lit.

Timetable for the Canigó Flame in Barcelona

1:30 pm. The Flame arrives at Barcelona City Hall

5 pm: Ceremonies prior to the reception of the Flame (sardana dances and human-tower workshop)

6:20 pm Welcome.

6:30 pm Reception of the Flame

6:45 pm Speeches and reading of the message.

7 pm Distribution of the Flame begins.

7:30 pm End of the ceremony and the Flames begin their journey to city neighbourhoods.

Fireworks must be used with caution. Here is some basic advice to help you to enjoy a safe festive eve!

  • Never keep any fireworks in your pockets. They can catch fire and explode.
  • Try and light the touchpaper from one end, to give yourself time to move out of the way.
  • Never put your face or any part of your body over or in front of any lit firework. If you do, you may suffer serious burns or eye or other injuries.
  • Roman candles that do not come with a special handle have to be set in a hole or tube with soil or sand to prevent burns.
  • You must never fire a rocket by hand or with must never be fired with a broken stick, or from a place at risk of catching fire (on a mountain where there are dry shrubs etc.) They have to be fired placed on a pole, conveniently prepared with eye bolts. That will protect you from harming yourself or causing a fire.
  • If the firework fails to light, do not touch it for 30 minutes. You’ll have to disable it by leaving it in water overnight.
  • Never launch any rockets, balloons or other items containing fire within 500 metres of a woody area. You could set fire to it and cause a forest fire.
  • You must close nearby doors and windows when there are fireworks on the street. That way you will protect your home from any risk of catching fire.
  • You must not put out a string of fireworks before they have finished exploding. Elements exploded separately from their string can cause serious injuries.
  • Fix your Catherine wheels properly. That way you will prevent any uncontrolled burning.
  • Never launch a firework at anyone. You can cause them serious injury.
  • When using fireworks, you must ensure there are no inflammable liquids nearby. They catch fire easily and their vapour can explode.
  • You must not fix strings of fireworks inside bricks or bottles, because they give off shrapnel uncontrollably when they explode.
  • Fire works will be brighter and more spectacular if you fire them with your back to the wind and you will also avoid any risk of burn from sparks.
  • Do not fire any rocket with a broken stick, because it will move off in an unexpected direction and may misfire.
  • For your own and your family’s safety, you must buy fireworks from establishments that are authorised to sell them.

Sant Joan traditions

Sant Joan's 'coca'

This Catalan flat bread comes in various guises: sweetened with marzipan, cream or whipped cream and decorated with pine nuts, crackling or candied fruit.

Sant Joan bonfires

Bonfires in Barcelona's squares and road junctions are the most outstanding and eye-catching part of the festive eve.

Fireworks

Barcelona has a long tradition of firework displays throughout this night, when kilos of fireworks are set off, giving off idiosyncratic sounds and brilliant lights.