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Fiesta San Joan 2007

16 June, 2008 (06:07) | Living in Europe | By: admin

St. Joan’s Day is a sound designer’s dream; It is unlike any other holiday I’ve experienced in any other country. Its a little bit like the 4th of July used to be in the United States back in the 50’s and a bit like Guy Fawkes Day in Wellington New Zealand, only it is more like controlled anarchy. The whole city gets into it. They sell firecrackers, big ones, at official sites. There are no restrictions or regulations when or where to use them. I have never seen Catalans so united in glee. There are designated pyres on certain intersections where a big bonfire burns all night. We recorded and videotaped all night, “multi-media sound design duo” out on the field. A 60 year old woman threw in a table, A kid tosses a handful of fireworks; feed the fire, feed the fire. The city sounded like a war zone. Persons of all ages lighting the fuse and running or hobbling away. Glee. Chaos. Anarchy in its purest form.

The fireworks are not as intricate and well choreographed as the 1 hour show on Guy Fawkes Day over Wellington Harbor in New Zealand, nor as patriotic and intense as 4th of July fireworks in USA, but I think its more fun than either of those two because it is so hands-on. its a festival for all ages – we saw grandparents lighting firecrackers, as well as young kids. Its a totally a multi-generational holiday, one of many in this country which does not discriminate against the old.

I have some great video footage of the event, will have to figure out how to get the images from my camera to my website in the future. (Actually, you can see images from Fiesta San Juan in the YouTube video “Burn It Down” of my last posting.)

From the local newspaper

In Barcelona, Sant Joan is a lively night of parties and celebrations across the city.

The Revetlla de Sant Joan is a popular celebration held on the night of 23 June characterized by fires and the imaginary beings that come out on this more than any other night!

La Nit de Sant Joan, St John’s Night, one of the shortest of the year given it comes just after the summer solstice, is a night of magic and tradition in Barcelona, with lots of popular celebrations around a bonfire, where people eat all kinds of sweet and savoury pastries called coques.

Fireworks of various colours light up the sky while the silence of the night is shattered by exploding bangers and the sound of music from the fiestas (festes in Catalan) held to celebrate a festival packed with symbolism.

Revetlles, in Catalan, or Verbenas, in Spanish, are popular open-air celebrations, spiced up with music, where people eat all kinds of coques, sweet and savoury pastries, around a fire to ward off bad luck. The celebration lasts from sunset on 23 to sunrise on 24, St John’s Day.

It is a tradition to light bonfires for Sant Joan. Fire is one of the key elements of this night because it frightens the imaginary beings that come out in large numbers and wards off bad luck for the rest of the year.

Fire is one of the three symbols of the Revetlla de Sant Joan, often known popularly as the Nit del Foc, or “night of fire”. Its purifying flames frighten off and force back the imaginary beings that abound during the hours of darkness. They also ward off bad luck.

The second symbol of Sant Joan is water. It is said that, on this night, water has curative powers, so it is the custom for many people to swim in the sea or moisten themselves with dew from the fields at the crack of dawn.

According to tradition, medicinal plants multiply their curative properties this night, so it is the custom to collect thyme, rosemary and verbena at the first hour of the morning.

The strong tradition of pyrotechnics in Catalan culture comes from the Arabs, and was revived in the 12th and 13th century.