Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nit de Sant Joan - celebrating the Summer Solstice!

Well it's here - summer.  You can tell by the fact that (a) both of my children are now home full time, (b) the sun is up til almost 10PM and (c), it's getting warmer out.  Every year on June 23, the beaches become crowded with people celebrating the "Nit de Sant Joan" or the Night of Saint John - a dusk to dawn celebration for the summer solstice. 

While we did not dare to attend the events on the beaches on the night of June 23 - we heard they were insane and while perhaps Barcelona child-friendly, they were not going to be Marcus child-friendly.  Why is that?  Well, here there is no ban on personal fireworks.  Come one, come all - see if you can burn your eye out with some firecrackers.  Kids of all ages come on up!!  Yes, I have seen more and more (as it gets lighter out later and it warms up outside) children playing with firecrackers.  I know I have promoted how child friendly this city is and while most of the time I adore that feature, however, when it comes to simple child safety, I am mortified that people let their children do this!  And knowing that they would all be on the beaches lighting sparklers and firecrackers everywhere, I just couldn't imagine bringing the kids.  And bonfires galore as well!  I imagine it would be a very cool sight for just Josh and I, but not the best for Aidan and Liam.

There is a reason the festivities start out on the beaches.  I did a little research and found there are three symbols of Sant Joan (not pronounced Joan like we would in the States but Joe-Ahn ... more like Juan).  Fire is considered to be a purifying element that "liberates us from misfortune" according to the city website.  And how do we purify ourselves?  Apparently they throw old furniture into it.  Ok, I'm getting a little sad that I missed the beach celebrations because I think this would all have been rather interesting to see.  Being that the celebrations start at the beach, you probably have guessed that the second symbol is water and you would be correct in that assumption.  Water has curative powers and so you should bathe in the sea to cure whatever ails you.  Finally the third element is herbs.  I can imagine many a Barcelonian partaking in certain herbs down by the water, however, I don't think that's what they meant.  According to the city website again, Nit de Sant Joan is a night where the plants are believed to multiply their remedial properties significantly and then they are collected to treat people. 

There are also festivals in and around the city as well, not just on the beaches.  Bonfires and firecrackers and more!  I decided to take a chance and venture out to see what our neighborhood had to offer in way of celebrating.  Well, it was interesting to say the least.  While I didn't come across any fires, there were fireworks and firecrackers and sparklers pretty much everywhere.  People would use window grates to hold the firecrackers.  Or pull up a spot on a sidewalk and decide to light off a firework.  It was a time where I had to be vigilant above and beyond my usual, don't try to steal my wallet again, kind of vigilance.  If you look the wrong way for a moment, a firecracker could appear right in front of you.  Kids and adults of all ages were out celebrating.  Surprisingly to me, it was all very well controlled for the most part - the kids, dare I say it, seemed rather responsible about lighting them off.  That's not to say I agree that they should light them, but they weren't running with them crazy in the streets.  They just seemed to have some common sense.  Of course, I only saw one child wearing googles and while I'm sure his little friends made fun of him, I applaud his parents for saving his eyesight!!  Mom, I can't imagine what the emergency rooms here look like tonight!!

Lighting off some fireworks right next to the building... fire code violation?  No way, not here!

I also noticed while on my walk that several blocks were barricaded off from traffic and they would have tables lined up along the center of the street thru the entire block. People would be sitting down enjoying a family picnic at these tables. Some brought grills, others coolers. It just seemed to me, to be very much a family affair - people just sitting back and enjoying the festivities together.

Long line of tables along a block in Gracia - people were just sitting down and enjoying their picnics.  It really looks to be like a family tradition which was quite heartwarming given all the explosions around me!

Better view of the tables

Tweens lighting off firecrackers and small fireworks - they were probably 10 or 12 years old.

Getting ready to throw some more!

Can you see how young these kids are??

And some parents participate here and there too!

Watching the fireworks!

The ones I saw by the Clock Tower were the best - they even had some rockets that shot into the sky - however, my camera wasn't fast enough for those.

Small child Liam's age with a sparkler - the kids here at least seem to be educated enough to know not to hold it up close to your face which is exactly what my kids would probably do!

Temporary fireworks booths set up in the city.

I just looked on the city website again and when you click on the neighborhood a little white block comes up that lists, fireworks, fire and something else (I don't know what it means) - I clicked on what I thought was the block before to find the fires and it turns out that I just realized you actually have to click on the word fire.  Sadly, it's 11PM here and I'm not going fire-hunting now.  I guess this is a festivity that I will just have to enjoy next year now that I've belatedly educated myself!!  It was still worth the walk just to experience the fireworks portion of it!

Like any celebration here, nothing lasts for just a day.  Thursday, June 24 is when this celebration continues (of course!).  Businesses are closed, Josh has the day off, my BFF Michelle arrives (woo hoo!!!).  And more festivals are afoot I'm sure... I'll post more later if we find anything exciting!


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