The night of Sant Joan in Tarragona is a terrifying cacophony of petards, fireworks and flares celebrating the shortest night of the year. It is also when one of the most memorable correfoc (fire run) of the year takes place, starting one hour before midnight and filling the lanes of the old city with the acrid smell of explosive.
The night of Sant Joan has a prelude at the Serrallo a few hours earlier when the Flama del Canigó, a flame carried down from the highest peak of the Catalan Pyrenees, reaches the port of Tarragona. Despite its mythical resonance the tradition of the Flama del Canigó only dates back to 1955 when Francesc Pujades inspired by a poem by a nineteen century poem by Jacint Verdaguer started the tradition of burning a fire on Catalonia’s highest peak. Its ambers are used to light the bonfires of over 3000 local cities, town and villages in celebration of Summer Solstice.
But the most spectacular part starts a few hours later when several groups of Diables, let by the Ball de Diables de Tarragona enters the old city at the sound of drums and flares. They dance and run along the alleys followed by other groups carrying the beast of fire, the drac, bou and Vibria which set the walls of the old city alight. It’s an intoxicating spectacle which culminates in Plaça de la Font with the lighting of the bonfire.
But this is not the end by far as the night of Sant Joan continues on beaches and other organised venues where thousands revel in a mashup of music and petards and flares which last until dawn.