The following article is taken from Eye on Spain,

Experience Barcelona's Festival Spirit

It really doesn't matter what time of year you visit Barcelona, you will always find lots going on. The people are welcoming and the lifestyle is very lively, meaning an exciting stay for you. However, there is one time of year when the city really springs to life. The Festival of Saint John (San Juan) takes place on the evening of June 23 and if you happen to be in Spain's second city at that time, you are in for a real treat.

San Juan fiestaThe festival, also called "verbenas" meaning open air fiestas, is a celebration of the summer solstice. This is when the city prepares to welcome the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit every year. It takes place on the eve of Saint John's day - a public holiday in Catalonia. Being off from work the following next day, this is a night when the people don't hold back in having fun.

The history of the festival is a long one. Like in many cultures, the summer solstice had always been an important event in Spain. In pagan times, fire was celebrated as a symbol of abundance, purity and fertility. Today the Spanish people pay tribute to these traditions by holding firework shows. These can be appreciated, along with bonfires, all over Barcelona at this time.

Indeed, fire is one of the strongest traditions of the festivals. Like the Olympic Flame, the flame that lights the fires in Catalonia during "verbenas" is taken around different villages. Tourists are invited to take part in the ritual of burning something. This, it is said, will help you to rid your sins and cure bad luck.

One of the most popular customs with couples is to take the hand of a loved one and jump over a bonfire seven times. Legend has it that this will see you live happily for ever after. This, however, we would urge you leave it to the experts - those being the locals!

Water is another important element of the festival, one that holds a very special meaning. Just like baptisms of Saint John, on this night in particular water will cleanse your sins. This has led to the belief that a swim will lead to lifelong happiness. So, don't be surprised if you seen hundreds of students take to Barcelona's beaches at midnight to go for a dip.

And, apparently, you can't really celebrate the Festival of Saint John without seeing the sun come up. This happens at around 6.15 at this time of year and is a great excuse for partying all night.

As we mentioned before, fireworks are a big part of the night. Every barrio of Barcelona will have its own display on June 23, which will be accompanied by an all-night bonfire. Old furniture and wood is collected to raise the bonfires, another symbol of the 'old with the old in with the new' nature of the night.

It is within the barrios that you will be able to experience the real party. Dancing in the town squares, street parties, music and entertainment are all on the cards, and always to the bang of the 'petardos'. Petardos are firecrackers, which you can buy from about ten days from the festival at little huts that spring up around the city.

As always in Barcelona, food plays a bit part in proceedings. The most popular dish being the Catalonian Coco dessert. This is long bread filled with lots of tasty ingredients. Being one of the major celebrations of the year, this is a time when all Catalans push the boat out, so you will probably find lots of new foods to try.

If you are planning to come to Barcelona, during the Festival of Saint John is the perfect time to do so. Lots of tourists might choose other Spanish destinations to enjoy their summer holidays. However, with beaches, lots of strong traditions and one of the year's biggest Catalonian events, Barcelona is the only place you should consider.



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