San Juan in Spain, a night of witches and bonfires

Yes! it is here! The summer has finally arrived! We are all happy and eager to finally head to whoknowswhere and have some proper time off. Also, the start of the summer is the beginning of something else, the days start to shorten and the nights get longer. Many countries have their own rite or ceremony to celebrate this. For example, you can head to Stonehenge in the UK and spend a night with the dolmens. Or you can head north and enjoy a non-stop party with the midnight sun. Today I am telling you about how we do it in Spain: the verbena de San Juan.

San Juan - The Solivagant Soul

Found in Pinterest, credit to the owner

What is a verbena?

So I have decided to use this term without translate it because I don’t think there’s a proper word for it. A verbena is a party in which everybody goes out to the street and (of course, it’s Spain), we eat. We usually all bring some food to share. There’s off course a lot of drinking and tones of food. And you can all go to someone’s house, or garden. Or in some places people just take take one of their own tables to the street and do it there. It’s a beautiful moment when people from all around the neighborhood gather together and have a nice time.

But why San Juan

Well, San Juan just means Saint John. This festivity is actually the following day but because the verbena actually happens the night before than San Juan it just got it’s day.

San Juan - The Solivagant Soul

Interested about other interesting traditions in Spain? Check out this post – Festes de Gracia, the other Barcelona

Why and when does this happen?

Well, the when is easier than the why. This “party” always occurs before the day before “Saint John”, so the night of June 23rd. Beginning of the summer and perfect for being all night out there without being cold.

The why though is more interesting. Though the tradition behind it is not completely known, there are a few theories. So here’s my favorite:

The shortest night of the year (kinda) is a magic night when the world of the magic and our reality are the closest. It is that night that ceremonies involving purification and fire happen. So that you can burn the old and start the new season with a clean slate.

San Juan - The Solivagant Soul

Credit to

Today, we still do something similar, the bonfire is mandatory, though now we are too materialistic for burning our stuff… so we just jump over the fire to start this new period with the right foot.

So what really goes on during San Juan?

Well, as I told you it involves meeting with friends and eating a lot. Usually some cava is mandatory and, at least in Catalonia, and of course an amazing “coca de San Juan”, a great dessert that you can see better in this picture that I could ever get to explain.

San Juan - The Solivagant Soul

Finally, for some reason, fireworks are mandatory too.

I have nothing against nice fireworks, you know? Those that go up to the sky and explode into a nice shape of colors. Those I like. But for some reason the most common ones in Spain are the ones that they only make noise. More like bombs. Some times, there is so much gunpowder in the air after one of these nights that you can see the cloud moving. It is something to witness.

With its ups and downs, it is a pretty nice night to live in Spain and see what it’s a really crazy party there. If you can, enjoy it!

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San Juan in Spain, a night of witches - The Solivagant Soul


  1. Sounds like a wonderful time and great tradition in Spain! 🙂

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