Celebrated on the night of June 23rd, La Nit de Foc in Mallorca rings in la Festa de Sant Joan (San Juan in Spanish) or Saint John the Baptist on June 24th. Of course, it also coincides with the summer solstice and the longest night of the year, making it the perfect time for dressing up like a demon and participating in a correfoc.
Sant Joan is a can’t-miss Mallorcan tradition, so read on to learn how, when and where to celebrate.
The Origins of Sant Joan
The Feast of Saint John celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus Christ who was responsible for baptizing him in the Biblical account. It’s often claimed that the Catholic Church placed the Feast of Saint John near the summer solstice to Christianize pagan traditions, but historians have determined this is unlikely since the summer solstice was actually celebrated much earlier in the past due to innacuracies in the calendar. Nevertheless, Sant Joan and Midsummer have always been deeply connected in Europe, and it’s a popular celebration throughout the Catholic world.
Typical Sant Joan Traditions
The Feast of Saint John and Midsummer are important festivals all around Europe, and especially in the Mediterranean parts of Spain like Valencia. The Balearic traditions are similar and incorporate typical parts of Mallorcan festivals in general.
Like on Sant Antoni, Mallorcans celebrate Sant Joan with large bonfires called foguerons. Instead of on street corners, Sant Joan’s warm weather means people take to the beach for their barbecues. People usually meet on large strips of sand, arenals, to enjoy the sunlight that stretches late into the night.
Would it even be a Mallorcan festival without correfocs? These are basically giant sparklers that participants, usually dressed like demons, run around with, showering the surrounding area with sparks. Even if you don’t have any fireworks yourself, you can run through the sparks, which is an exhilerating experience.
On the Eve of Sant Joan, appropriately named La Nit de Foc, which means “Night of Fire” in Catalan, you may even see the typical dragon and other legendary creatures come out. These are adorned with their own fireworks and accompanied by drumlines.
Coca de Sant Joan
Although it’s more popular in Catalonia, Mallorcans also like to eat Coca de Sant Joan during la Nit de Foc. The dish is usually a sweet dessert made with fruit or cream, but you might find some savoury variants with vegetables, meat or sobrassada.
The Best Places to Celebrate Sant Joan
If you’re in the Balearic Islands, the best place to celebrate Sant Joan isn’t on Mallorca at all. Nearby on Menorca, the party is intense. Sant Joan in Ciutadella is considered one of the most iconic Balearic traditions and one you can’t miss if you’re here in June.
The festivities, mostly unchanged since Medieval times, involve large crowds of people, bands and music, food and drink, and most notably, the Caracol des Borns, a parade of locally bred horses carrying flags of the Maltese cross, a symbol originally used by the Knights of Saint John the Baptist.
How to Get to Ciutadella from Mallorca
By ferry: The easiest way, in my opinion, to get to Menorca from Mallorca is to take the ferry. The route from Alcudia to Ciutadella is just about an hour, which is going to be shorter than a flight when you include security and all the hassle of an airport. Plus, you can take your car for better mobility around Menorca.
The only issue is getting to Alcudia. You can sometimes find ferries from Palma, but they take a bit longer and aren’t as frequent.
By plane: You can easily fly to Menorca from the Palma airport, but keep in mind that flights land in Mahón, not Ciutadella. The flight time is about 45 minutes.
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Parc de la Mar, Palma
Palma is arguably the best place in Mallorca to celebrate Sant Joan if you’re a foreigner. In Parc de la Mar, just below the Cathedral, you’ll find bonfires and a large number of correfocs as well as stands serving food, drinks and Coca de Sant Joan. Festivities generally begin at dusk.
Colonia Sant Jordi
Colonia Sant Jordi in the south of the island hosts a special event called the Correfoc de Cala Galiota every Eve of Saint John, the night of June 23rd. As the name suggests, the correfoc and associated verbena, a party with food and drink vendors, takes place on Platja de Cala Galiota conveniently located within the town of Colonia Sant Jordi. Like in Palma, plan to be there a bit before sundown.
You don’t need a specific location to enjoy Sant Joan on Mallorca. Just head to any sandy beach and you’re likely to find Mallorcans ringing in summer with festivities. I primarily recommend the arenals in the south of the island:
- Sa Ràpita
- Ses Covetes
- Es Trenc
Those near Palma are also good choices:
- Can Pere Antoni (Palma City Beach)
- Ciudad Jardín
You’re likely to find activity around Alcudia as well:
- Platja de Muro
- Platja d’Alcudia
- Port de Pollença