Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sant Joan festival celebrated with fairs and fireworks

Today is a big holiday in Cataluyna, the fira or festival of Sant Joan or St. John. This is a celebration of the summer solstice. Since our neighbouring town Llanca had a medieval festival starting at noon, we decided to see what it was about. Promptly at noon, we heard the sound of horns and drums leading a small parade of men dressed in medieval attire led by one man cleverly walking on stilts. They ended up in the town square where a proclamation was read to the audience.  The usual quiet town square shaded by an ancient plane tree was humming today. There were stalls filling the square and several of the side streets. Although several had a medieval theme with medieval armour and slingshots on sale, many sold crafts, clothing, jewellery and aromatherapy.

Fire, water and herbs are symbols of Sant Joan's day. Fire symbolises purity, and for this reason fires are lit. Water symbolises healing causing people bathe in the sea on this night.  Herbs symbolise remedy, especially rosemary, thyme and verbena, and some claim that for the night of Sant Joan their healing qualities are enhanced one hundred times over. Interesting that one of the types of incense on sale at the market was called cannabis. I'm not sure where this fits in.

There were several stalls selling cheese and we bought some sheep's milk cheese with rosemary and some tallegio that we will have later with a pear. We couldn't resist the liquorice fudge squares on sale at one of the candy stalls, and munched our way around the fair. There were stalls selling lovely pastries, thin crust pizza from an onsite pizza oven and a bread stall complete with bread oven cooking the loaves on site. Here we bought a lovely looking cereal loaf.

By now it was time for lunch and what better excuse do we need to visit Pati Blanc, the tranquil outdoor restaurant. Here I had a red pepper stuffed with meat, vegetables and pine nuts with a fennel taste. Delicious. Seamus had a selection of cold smoked fish. Of course this was accompanied by patatas bravas. We were entertained by a west highland terrier who got great pleasure from eating olives. Great value in such a beautiful setting.

After watching Spain neatly beat France to advance to the Euro 2012 semi finals it was down to the beach to watch the St. Joan celebrations. All the restaurants were full, as eating is a big part of this day. At eleven o'clock the town let of its fireworks. Then the entire beachfront was lit up as families and individuals set off their own displays, many of which were quite elaborate.  At eleven thirty a bonfire was lit and burned away as the background to even more fireworks. As we walked along the promenade we could hear the strains of Michael Buble from the bandstand. People were dancing as little coloured lights swept over the dance floor. It was a little surreal as there were cordite clouds floating by at the same time. Midnight arrived with the band now performing live music. Still families had bags of fireworks to let off. The fireworks and music continued well into the night. After two there was the odd bang from fireworks and the band played on until four. A busy night.

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