23 Jun 2012

Sant Joan

San Juan : Bakers in celebratory mode

         Spare a thought for the BigBarcelonaBlog's ears tonight. They may not be the most attractive ears. They may be slightly waxy. They may even have the odd hair growing out of them. But whatever their faults they do not deserve what is about to happen to them as darkness falls on Barcelona. For tonight is the festival of Sant Joan.
          Actually, strictly speaking, it's not. It's actually the revetlla (night before) de Sant Joan but that isn't particularly important. What's important is the impending perforation of the Blog's eardrums.
          The festival dates back to the pagan celebration of the summer solstice and it is still technically supposed to celebrate the longest day of the year.  Demonstrating the much mocked laid-back Spanish regard for punctuality it is actually held two days after the actual longest day but what the Spanish lack in time-keeping they certainly make up for in enthusiasm.
          As I said, the festival dates back to Pagan times but when Christianity became the dominant religion it simply hijacked all the ancient festivals and gave them different names much to the annoyance of the few remaining Castillian druids who didn't even have Stonehenge as a memento after all those long hard years of sun worship and human sacrifice.

San Juan 1 : Picture of baked goods due to unavailability of  image of human sacrifice
          The traditional method of celebrating the night of Sant Joan is a rowdy combination of fire and explosives. Why this is deemed an appropriate commemoration of a man who spent much of his life knee deep in the River Jordan baptising people and the end of it having his head chopped off because a young woman did a sexy dance is beyond me. At least you kind of get why there are bonfires and fireworks in the UK on November 5th. Guy Fawkes was going to blow stuff up so they burnt him to death. Nobody is saying it was nice but at least the celebration makes thematic sense. On the other hand going for true Sant Joan authenticity and giving young women the right to request the decapitation of those who've irritated them if they demonstrate sufficient aptitude at shaking their bootie is probably not the way to go either. So we'll stick with what we've got.
          As evening turns into night bonfires are lit all over the country (but especially in Catalunya where the festival is bigger than in other parts of Spain apart from Alicante where it's superbig) and then fireworks are set off at countless private parties.  Catalans seems to prefer brute noise over pretty light when it comes to their incendiaries so don't expect too many pretty Catherine wheels. Do expect to have your nerves shattered and your pets traumatised. 
          It is said by some that the most authentic and traditional place to gather to witness the orgy of incenidaries  is the beach. This is complete nonsense because the beach has only been there since 1992 and according to the arbitary rules of BigBarcelonaBlog things have to at least be older than him to count as traditional. So Sant Joan at the beach - no. England winning an international football tournamentyes.
          But even though it's nonsense to go vast crowds do and there is scarcely an inch of sand left spare by the time the cacophony reaches its climax. The BigBarcelonaBlog has emphasised the noise but I should also say that it accompanies stupendously impressive light show and because the main source of the fireworks is private rather than organised parties it has a rather wonderful higgledy-piggledy chaotic unpredictability and the city is filled with a euphoric air of anarchic celebration which hints at its primitive roots.
San Juan 3 :  Cocas
          The actual day of Sant Joan (the 24th) is a much more sedate affair. People go to the bakers and by cocasa traditional (older than 45) cake which is a kind of broiche with colourful dried fruit on and take it round to their families where they sit around eating it and drinkling cava and discussing who woke up with the worst case of tinnitus. Cocas do look very good but The BigBarcelonaBlog isn't much of a one for cakes so cannot provide you with accurate information about how tasty they are (and we know the BigBarcelonaBlog is all about the truth. Doubtless, you too, like truth. Who doesn't? If you would like to show your appreciation of truth take one second to click on one of the many tempting adverts which accompany this blog. Truth and indeed I thank you.)
          Back to the bakers. The BigBarcelonaBlog can give you this tipit is an appalling mistake to arrive at a Catalan bakers wanting to buy a baguette just after someone has ordered a Coca. The wrapping of these cakes is like a religious rite in itself. Nuclear waste has been stored with less care (and not just in Russia). Suffice it to say that the freshest baguette in the world will be stale and dry by the time all the ribbons and bows have been done up. So bring a book.

San Juan 4 : Yes, these pictures are getting repetitive
          That’s the day after the night before. Which was brash and brazen. The sound of a city going wild. So prepare to release your inner savage.
          Happy Sant Joan!

Useful words/Phrases:

Una hoguera –  A bonfire
Un fuego artifical – A firework
El ruido! El ruido! El ruido! - The noise! The noise! The noise!
Las orejas! Las orejas! Las orejas! - My ears! My ears! My ears!

If you fancy chatting :

Vendes tapones?Do you sell earplugs.
Mi perro/gato/pez de colores está traumatisado my dog/cat/goldfish is traumatised
Cariño, ¿Dónde están los siete velos? Me apetece bailarDarling where are the seven veils? I fancy dancing.