Catalonia celebrates Sant Joan with bonfires, fireworks and 'coques'

Fireworks industry is expecting a 5% increase in sales, with a total turnover of €23 million

Sant Joan in Tarragona in 2023
Sant Joan in Tarragona in 2023 / Ariadna Escoda
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | barcelona

June 20, 2024 12:51 PM

June 23, 2024 10:59 PM

Sant Joan is one of the most celebrated days in Catalonia, with bonfires, firecrackers, a dessert called coca, and loads of open-air partying and dancing to celebrate the summer solstice.

Known as the 'revetlla de Sant Joan,' the eve of Sant Joan on June 23 is traditionally referred to as "the shortest night of the year," although this is not factually accurate

Fireworks are one of the main ingredients of the night. This year, the fireworks industry is expecting a 5% increase in sales this Sant Joan, with a total turnover of €23 million. 

In the days leading up to the night, there will be 1,992 fireworks stands throughout the territory, most of them temporary, usually near roads and accessible places. 

Fireworks store in Sabadell
Fireworks store in Sabadell / Albert Segura

The increase in sales is partly due to the fact that the festival falls on a Sunday this year, encouraging families and groups of friends to enjoy multiple parties over the three-day weekend.

Vendors are noticing a growing preference for lower-noise and more colourful products such as fountain fireworks. However, louder firecrackers continue to be popular with their loyal customer base.

Another reason for the increase is the recent rains, which have reduced the fire risk and improved the three-year drought in Catalonia, eliminating the need for additional restrictions in some areas as in previous years.

As an innovative measure this year, a pilot project will introduce two waste collection containers in Barcelona and one in Palau-solità i Plegamans to recycle fireworks waste.

People lighting firecrackers in Barcelona
People lighting firecrackers in Barcelona / Blanca Blay

Free 'dog hotel' to protect pets from fireworks

Sant Joan is not a happy night for everyone. For pets, loud firecrackers can be distressing and even life-threatening.

Dogs' hearing is four times sharper than humans', while cats' hearing is even more acute, making them very sensitive to loud noises. 

In fact, reports of missing animals almost double after the celebrations of Sant Joan, and the number of animals found increases by 137% compared to an average day.

To tackle this problem and protect dogs from the distress caused by fireworks, the town council of Castellolí, a town in inland Catalonia, has decided to offer them free accommodation for the night.


The location is ideal, a dog kennel at a higher altitude and two kilometers away from the town, ensuring that dogs will not hear the sound of fireworks.

"It is the fairest for all. Taking the dogs to an idyllic natural location to spend the night just as special as we spend it, without the stress of fireworks," says the town's mayor, Joan Serra.

One of the residents who inspired the initiative is Tamara, who told the mayor that her dog's health problems worsened during Sant Joan.

"He is terrified of firecrackers. It's really tough for him, he's very scared. It's awful," she says.

Now, dozens of neighbors will benefit from this initiative, even though Tamara has not yet decided whether to leave her dog at the shelter.

"We need to consider whether it's better to leave him alone that night in the hotel or keep him with us so we can manage his anxiety," she says.

Catalan roads face busiest weekend

The three-day long weekend will be one of the most complicated of the year on Catalan roads.

The Catalan Interior Ministry has activated an extraordinary operation for the festivities, which this year coincide with the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Montmeló. 

Around 460,000 vehicles are expected to leave the Barcelona metropolitan area between 3 pm on Friday and noon on Saturday. 

The AP-7 road will be most affected, especially on Saturday morning between 9 am and 1 pm.

Barcelona beach in Sant Joan in 2023
Barcelona beach in Sant Joan in 2023 / Blanca Blay

More police, firefighters and 112 operators

Police will set up a total of 1,106 checkpoints on Catalan roads, with around 4,000 police officers, including the Catalan police Mossos d'Esquadra and local officers, deployed to ensure security. 

The Catalan Fire Department will also be reinforced with an average of four additional firefighters per station. 

Last year, between 8 pm on June 23 and 8 am on June 24, they responded to 934 incidents, mainly urban fires and vegetation fires. The majority of the incidents occurred in metropolitan areas.

Interior minister Joan Ignasi Elena said that the fire risk was not as extreme as in the previous two years due to recent rains, but stressed that the risk remained high.

The emergency phone line 112 has a total of 100 personnel during the peak activity period. The night of Sant Joan is the busiest night for this service, along with New Year's Eve.

To learn more about Sant Joan, have a listen to this episode of our podcast Filling the Sink of 2023.