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Sant Joan 2021: How to enjoy the festivity despite the pandemic

Some beaches will be open all night and fireworks and bonfires are generally permitted but with restrictions

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23 June 2021 09:27 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

Saint John’s Eve, known in Catalan as “la revetlla de Sant Joan, is an event celebrated on the night of June 23 and long into the early hours of June 24. To celebrate the shortest day of the year, people traditionally flock to Catalonia’s beaches to celebrate the year’s biggest nocturnal festival of bonfires, food and fireworks.

In 2020, due to the pandemic, most beaches were closed in Catalonia to prevent large gatherings. However, this year, the festival should vastly resemble traditional nights from pre-pandemic years. 

Beaches open for Sant Joan with restrictions 

This year, many beaches will be open for Sant Joan celebrations. This is the case in Barcelona, where in 2019 around 50,000 people partied on the city’s shores. Beaches will also be open in many of the surrounding coastal towns and cities in the metropolitan area. 

However, whilst Barcelona’s Deputy Mayor for Security, Albert Batlle, has expressed that he wants this to be a “special night”, restrictions will be in place and a police task force in operation. 

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau has also asked people to remember their social responsibility, and states that any “lack of control” at the beach will not be permitted. 

On beaches located in the city, specific access points will be set up and alcoholic beverages, tents and musical instruments will not be allowed.

Moreover, the local Guàrdia Urbana police force has a unit dedicated to policing beaches, made up of 90 officers and 32 vehicles, which will be operating on the night of the festival.

At 6:00am, the traditional clearing and clean up will begin, and the Barcelona metro will be open all night to help get party-goers home. Although, Barceloneta metro station will be closed from 10pm to 4am to help avoid overcrowding. 

This is similar throughout Catalonia, Tarragona having also agreed to keep their beaches open, but banning the consumption of alcohol and the lighting of bonfires. In Girona, while there is no beach, it has been confirmed that bonfires will be going ahead. However, some local authorities, including Sitges, Castelldefels, and Vilanova i la Geltrú have since said their beaches will be shut for Sant Joan. 

Catalan News spoke to some people in Barcelona about what they thought on the reopening of the beaches for Sant Joan.

Juan Fernando said that he is happy that the beaches are open again and is planning to go to one in the city to celebrate Sant Joan. He highlighted that this year is very different to last year, saying that they “have a different situation with the vaccines and I think that we can [celebrate]”.

Angela also told Catalan News that she is in favour of the beaches being open again, saying: “It seems fair to me [that the beaches will open] because we’ve been confined for so long and deserve a bit of space“.

‘La coca’ de Sant Joan

Food is also particularly important during Sant Joan. The most iconic part of a Sant Joan spread is undoubtedly la coca, a special festive version of the classic brioche-inspired Catalan cake.

Jaume Betran, a baker at Forn Mistral bakery in the center of Barcelona, explained to Catalan News: “‘Coques’de Sant Joan are like all Catalan ‘coques’. It’s a coca made from brioche with jams or pumpkin jam, or chocolate. There are different types, such as ‘coques’ made from puff pastry with pork crackling.”

Around 1.8 million ‘coques’ are expected to be sold this year in Catalonia alone, around the same amount as last year. These days, the most popular varieties are those filled with cream or pork crackling.  

Other traditions 

Small Sant Joan bonfires have been authorized this year and will be set throughout the whole of Barcelona. The fires are usually lit when the sun sets and are kept alive until early in the morning. People gather, sing and dance around them and the most daring ones leap over fires and even tread on the embers. 

As for fireworks’ shops, they are allowed to open as long as they are located in a public space and meet the safety conditions and health requirements. Sales of fireworks are expected to reach €19 million this year. During the night all kinds of fireworks are thrown by people of all ages, such as‘bengales’, ‘piules’, trons voladors’, ‘traques’, ‘bombetes’, among others. However, remember not use hand-sanitizing gel if you celebrate the night with firecrackers because they are highly flammable!

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  • A person cycles in front of a Sant Joan bonfire in Barcelona's Plaça de la Virreina, June 23, 2019 (by Elisenda Rosanas)

  • A person cycles in front of a Sant Joan bonfire in Barcelona's Plaça de la Virreina, June 23, 2019 (by Elisenda Rosanas)

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