> Symbolic Elements
> A Night Full of Magic
> Other Traditions
dilluns, 23 de juny de 2003
The night of June 23rd, or Sant Joan as it is known in our country, is a huge celebration, without a doubt one of the most traditional and popular among the holidays celebrated there. Since ancient times, just at the arrival of the summer solstice on the evening of June 21st, people have welcomed in the warmer weather with celebrations of fire, the ritual flames consuming all as a sign of rebirth and renewed life.
The origins of the celebration are indeed ancient; however they are also equally mysterious. There are some who believe it goes back to the Neolithic Age, when pagan celebrations were held to give strength to the sun god and thank him for the year's harvest. One important aspect of the summer solstice is that it marks the longest day of the year and is therefore followed by the shortest night, so from that moment forward, the daylight hours begin to wane.
Over time, this so-called pagan tradition became christianized by the Church of Rome, who had it coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Saint John the Baptist. This adaptation to Christian ritual occurred in the 5th century of the Christian era.
Although varying in specific regional traditions, the celebration has remained constant to the verve and popularity for which it became known, bringing together communities and groups of families and friends to participate in the annual holiday. For centuries now, places near and far all over the European continent have glowed luminously with fire, one of the most essential, yet one of many equally important elements associated with this celebration.
As it happens, it is in our country where the evening celebrations of Saint John have remained true with the passing centuries, being celebrated with particular intensity in its towns and cities. Traditions such as Les Falles d'Isil in the Catalan Pyrenees, La Crema deth Haro in the Vall d'Aran, the unique celebrations held in Ciutadella and the Fogueres in Alacant, all intensified with the arrival of the flame from El Canigó, symbolizing the united cultural identity of Catalan-speaking lands.
+ Fire is the most fundamental element associated with the Saint John's Eve celebration.
Fire is the most fundamental element associated with the Saint John's Eve celebration, as since ancient times it has symbolized renewal and the giving of thanks for bountiful harvests. However it isn't the only symbolic element, as there are many more. One other element is water: a magic and purifying element which is inevitably linked to the Christianization of the celebration. Saint John, according to Christian tradition, was the hermit who baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan river. You will find as you read ahead that the magical properties that have been popularly attributed to water on Saint John's Day are endless, which is in sharp contrast to the Catholic Church strictly forbidding contact with water or even washing oneself on Saint John's Day. Lastly, one other important element worth mentioning belongs to the plant kingdom: the group of plants known in our country as 'Saint John's herbs', which include Saint John's Wort, Carline thistle, vervain, lavender, thyme…all these plants are in full flower at this time of year, and are known for their healing properties, particularly during the celebrations held on Saint John's Eve.
A Night Full of Magic
As we previously mentioned, in our country, Saint John's Eve is one of, if not the most magical of all nights. A myriad of rituals associated with fire and water have been passed down over the ages that still exist today. There are traditions such as leaping over the bonfires to free oneself from sicknesses and bad omens; or the healing properties associated with the morning dew and a wide variety of summer herbs and plants that cause warts, herpes and skin diseases to disappear, while at the same time bringing good luck and fortune. Besides, according to the tradition, Saint John's Eve is the night when the wishes of those in love are brought into being by way of ancient spells and incantations. Also a number of rituals to enhance fertility abound on this day. And to top things off, witches gather and plot a myriad of twisted events, as well as share rituals using magic potions known only unto them. As you can see, there is no lack of magical elements associated with Saint John's Eve.
+ 'Coca de Sant Joan' is eaten on Saint John's Eve.
Saint John's Eve and the following day of the Feast of Saint John the Baptist are full of ancient traditions, some of which we have already mentioned. Obviously the celebration held on the night before the Saint's Day, also known as the 'verbena' is the most popular. People build and burn bonfires, light firecrackers right and left and make use of all sorts of fireworks, while also decoration their balconies, squares and are out on the town until the wee hours of the morning. One other tradition that finds its origin in ancient times are the 'ordalies', or a sort of trial by ordeal, consisting of a ritual closely linked to the young unmarried women living in rural areas. In order to predict the identity of their future husband, they follow such rituals as breaking an egg into a container full of water. The young women use the shape taken by the egg white to sense what tools their future husband will use to work the land. As regards gastronomy, traditional foods eaten on this day were ring-shaped cakes made using eggs, gradually popularized into the tasty fruit and suit 'coca' pastries eaten today. There are even cocas filled with creams and 'cabell d'àngel' (a sweet pumpkin filling). Common beverages include 'vi ranci', literally 'rancid' wine, as well as sweet wines, popularized by the Catalan cava consumed today.
> La revetlla de Sant Joan també és molt arrelada a Barcelona. Escolta la descripció que en va fer el gran prosista Josep Pla.
> De la popularitat de la festa de Sant Joan, n'és una bona prova aquesta seguida de refranys i dites.
> La flama del Canigó, encesa en aquest cim de Catalunya Nord, té una simbologia ben especial. Que la saps? Informa-te'n.
> Durant la revetlla de Sant Joan és tradició de llançar a la foguera tot allò que, o bé fa nosa, o bé ens porta mals records. Aquest joc de la foguera et permet de cremar les males coses d’enguany.
- Llegeix aquest article que explica, amb tot detall, les tradicions més ancestrals vinculades a la revetlla de Sant Joan. Com hi apareix l'evolució de la festa?
- La festa de Sant Joan de Ciutadella (Menorca) és única. Ressegueix, si no, aquesta pàgina, que l'explica a la menuda.
- La singular celebració de les falles d'Isil (Pallars Sobirà) s'explica en aquesta adreça.
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