Nit de San Joan

Nit de San Joan, Barcelona’s midsummer festival

Last 23rd of June, Barcelona celebrated the Nit de San Joan, Barcelona’s midsummer festival.

The Nit de San Joan

On the Nit de San Joan (Saint John’s Eve), Barcelona (and all of Spain as a matter of fact) celebrates the shortest night of the year on the summer solstice. The whole city makes a feast out of it. Districts and civic centers organize dinners in the streets, parties and firecrackers. I even saw a neighborhood that had a stage with kids’ choreography. I kind of wished to be part of it! Being an expat, I sometimes miss this sense of community that you have when you are well integrated in one country.

The beach party is on!

Instead of a neighborhood party, for us, Friday night was a beach night! That is what most people who don’t participate to district parties do. Friends or families gather on the beach, bring pareos or blankets to sit on the sand, snacks to munch on and drinks. Then, they spend the night hanging out, chatting and listening to the music coming from the chiringuitos. In theory, there should be bonfires too but it is forbidden. I have never seen one on the Barcelona beaches.

We were in Nova Icaria. And as expected, it was crowded…But this is part of the experience. On top of the great company that night, I also appreciated the fireworks and all the Chinese lanterns people were sending in the sky. So beautiful! Beside us, a group has set up a small fire and was juggling with fireballs. Free show! There was also techno music from the chiringuito close to us. For one night, it is fine. I am not a techno fan…Some others brought picnic. But the atmosphere was very friendly.

The day after the Nit de San Joan (Saint John’s eve) is a bank holiday, so the parties usually go on until sunrise. The clubs and bars in the city also organize special San Joan parties.

The downsides to San Joan

The Nit de San Joan is not all rosy though. My biggest scare is the “petardos” or firecrackers. I hate the sound they make and I am always scared that one escapes and hits me. It is quite painful and I speak out of experience. On the San Joan night, all kids and teenagers (and sometimes not so young folks) just go crazy with them.

Then, during the parties, sometimes you don’t pay attention to your belongings. You leave your bags on the floor next to you because you want to have fun…Pickpockets take advantage. On my first San Joan, a friend of ours had her handbag stolen in front of our nose. They took the cash and trashed it in a nearby bin – best place to check by the way if it ever happens to you. Luckily she found her papers back. Otherwise, it could have been a very very very painful end of the night.

It is also hard to find bathrooms most of the time. And it is not surprising to see people peeing behind bushes. And gardens smelling like toilet. Beaches are also quite trashed after the night. A lot of the people don’t throw their rubbish away when it is so simple for everyone to clean up after themselves!

A fun night anyway!

Nonetheless, it is a fun night to spend with friends and I am looking forward to next year’s. A better planned night, with a picnic, in a further away beach and our own music…

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