Stumbling Into Yet Another Holiday: The Festival of San Juan

A nice thing about traveling is that we often stumble into unexpected holidays. Last week, it was the night of San Juan, which, as Theo’s preschool administrator explained, was a pagan holiday celebrating the coming of summer until it was Christianized. From what I can gather, name aside, it’s largely turned back into a celebration of the summer solstice in Barcelona. Festivities include jumping over bonfires on the beach, drinking, waving around torches, and setting off lots of fireworks.

Our neighborhood of Gràcia, is not on a beach, but they compensated with a parade of dueling drummers, horses, and lots of torches.

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(And a mechanical street sweeper at the parade end. Very civilized and practical, I say.)


I wandered out of the apartment and followed the parade until it ended in a square near our house, where people began to set off fireworks. I’d say that it was LOTS of fireworks, except that being in Delhi, India during Diwali has completely reconfigured the meter that I use to measure fireworks quantities, and I think it’s far to say that nothing else will ever feel like lots of fireworks again. So, lets just say that the fireworks here in Gràcia lasted for many, many hours, far after I had wandered back to the apartment and sort-of started-sleeping, sort-of-kept-listening-to-fireworks.


The next morning we woke up and had a not-quite-coca-de-Sant-Joan. Theo and I had stopped by our favorite bakery to buy quiche and croissants for the next morning’s breakfast, as we sometimes do after school. But, we found that the standard bakery fare had been replaced by festival goods – and a very long line! I watched what everyone else was buying and purchased what you see below.


I later learned that this was is a coca, variations of which are served at many Catalan holidays. Based on a few minutes of Internet research, I believe that the “true” coca de Sant Joan have colorful candied fruits on them, and I picked the more demure looking lemon one. Fortunately, it was still delicious.