A Magical Midsummer Night

What are you doing tomorrow? The night of 23rd to 24th of June, many countries will be celebrating Midsummer Night, from Sweden to Brazil, from Chile to Portugal. Here in Spain it’s called the night of San Juan.

This has been a magical night for centuries. In different parts of Spain, you can hear many legends of encantadas, long-haired and non-human girls who suddenly appear on Midsummer combing their hair. More recently, this night has inspired the Spanish film “El Sueño de una Noche de San Juan”

When I was a child, this night was one of the best moments of the year. It marked the end of the school, the beginning of a 3-month summer holiday riding bikes and swimming in rivers or beaches. Living in a big city like Barcelona, I never knew all my neighbours, but I remember the great sense of community I felt that night when all the neighbours would gather and light a big bonfire. I’ve heard the bonfire symbolizes purification, and I like the idea of burning old stuff and starting afresh.

I also love the fact that it is an outdoor celebration; besides of bonfires, there are open-air concerts and fireworks on the beach. Celebration here is a synonym for gathering and sharing food and drink. In Barcelona, we always eat coca de Sant Joan. It’s a sweet cake that can include many different things: fruits, pine nuts, cream… We usually drink cava, a delicious sparkling wine. It used to be called champagne, but, nowadays the term can only be used for the drink produced in the Champagne region of France.


Coca de San Juan. Credit.

I just love this celebration! The only downside of Sant Joan Night to me are fire crackers. They are annoying, uncontrollable and very dangerous.

If you are near the beach, there’s a Catalan saying that goes “Per Sant Joan, el primer bany”, which means that you’re supposed to swim at midnight if you want to have good luck the following year.

On Wednesday, I will meet with some friends and celebrate Sant Joan in their beautiful patio filled with jasmine. Who knows, maybe we will go to the beach to keep traditions alive!

Will you celebrate Midsummer Night? We would love to hear about your traditions. Have a magical Midsummer Night, wherever you are!

Read more:
New life, new culture, new timetable – adapting to life in Spain
Calçotada time in Cataluña – what to expect
Madrid street food – food of the world

About the author

Marta Garcia
Marta Garcia grew up in Barcelona, Spain, and has also studied in Belgium and the UK. She works as a professional translator, translating English, French and Italian into Spanish and Catalan.
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4 Comments

  • Sounds wonderful! I’d love to be there for San Juan!My mum told me that when she was a child they used to celebrate la Noche de San Juan too in Buenos Aires, but, sadly, this custom has been lost. Although I recently read that it is still celebrated in other cities with a strong Spanish heritage.

  • Oh, I remember the firecrackers! One year they were still going off outside my flat at 8am the next morning.

    It impressed me to see whole families joining in the celebrations. In the UK babies and children usually get put to bed at a sensible time so they don’t join in parties much. During San Juan I saw some children staying up all night too.

    So, on Thursday you will tell us if you joined in the midnight swim? :)

  • In San Juan, Puerto Rico, I lived right on the beach. On the night of San Juan, I would sit on my balcony and watch people walk backwards into the ocean, where they then submerged themselves. If you did it three times, you were supposed to have good luck for the following year.

  • Nothing special over here in Japan. For some reason Spring and Autumn Equinox are big holidays but, the first day of Summer and Winter are just normal workdays.
    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers,
    Mike