Stuff Catalans Do: Nit de Sant Joan

If you love being made to jump out of your skin while strolling peacefully through your local square, if dosing your dog with valium is your thing, or locking yourself in with all the windows closed on a hot summer night, then you will positively adore the Nit de Sant Joan – St John’s Night – a.k.a. Nit de Foc or Night of Fire.

This festival marks the summer solstice and is celebrated throughout Catalonia on the night of 23 -24 June which, you may be protesting,  is actually two days after the solstice: the Catholic Church made this most pagan of festivals coincide with the date of birth of St John the Baptist.



Fire is the central element – bonfires, firecrackers… any restrictions on the sale or use of which are not very stringently enforced, to put it mildly: kids throw them around in public places for days or even weeks before. Years ago, piles of old armchairs and dressers, tables and beds would grow in public squares and crossroads: until Health and Safety stepped in, bonfires, the big feature of Sant Joan, were lit right in the heart of the city. But you still have impressive formal firework displays – and the revetlla, the street party.  In seaboard towns and cities, revellers wind up on the beach at sunrise – the thing goes right back to sun worship.  24 June, of course, is a public holiday.

So much for the #grumpyoldwoman take on Sant Joan. Anything good?  Well… there’s the Coca de Sant Joan, a large oval confection filled with massapà (marzipan) and decorated with fruites confitades and pinyons (crystallized fruits and pine nuts), eaten at the revetlla and washed down with cava.

Here’s a coca recipe in English from the famous Barcelona pastisseria Foix de Sarrià. I’ve made it and it’s good.


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