witnessing a corre foc in all its glory is one of the more spectacular sights on the Catalan festival calendar this whole celebration appears to be geared above all TO childreN

I went for a wander on my own for Sant Joan this year. I don’t normally go out on June 23 due to my aversion to what I deem to be unnecessary loud noise and my general intolerance of mischief, these being a couple of things I’ve come to associate with the celebration after years of dodging firecrackers thrown by cackling teenagers and exploding firework bombs devised to make you jump out of your skin. I’m also not too keen on the way kids generally swagger about with a fistful of fireworks on this night, as if they are suddenly empowered to do things they would not even consider doing on a normal summer Sunday evening.

But this year was different, my son is old enough to do his own thing now so I decided to take a meander around the neighbourhood of Gràcia to a) find a fire on which to burn some personal things I wanted to see the back of and b) take in the atmosphere, partly in the hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I remembered.

Turns out it was, as I spent most of the time skipping away from the aforementioned artefacts, but of more interest to this column were my reflections on what this celebration seems to be all about. It’s not a holiday we celebrate in the UK, and when you first arrive in this part of the world, witnessing a correfoc in all its glory is one of the more spectacular sights on the Catalan festival calendar, in my opinion. However, what caught my attention as I wandered the streets of Gràcia around midnight during this year’s festival was more related to a phenomenon I’ve seen so many times before here and always found, let’s say, culturally peculiar. Namely, that this whole celebration appears to be geared towards the family and above all children. At 1 o’clock in the morning in the square where I was standing, there was a bonfire to my left surrounded by teens throwing firecrackers, adults drinking and chatting in front of me, and a stage with a band performing to my right. The point I’m making refers to the band: they were performing in an open-air venue after midnight with alcohol on sale... but they were playing kids’ singalong songs, with adults and kids alike dancing to familiar children’s tunes as they frolicked around in front of the stage. This seemed a very obvious cultural difference to my mind, as even at this late hour the event was still catering to the kids, something I can’t imagine in other cultures, where the mixture of music, alcohol and the late hour would exclude kids from even attending, let alone being the focus of the entertainment on offer.

All in all it was quite a spectacle and yet another example of how family-oriented the culture can appear here when compared to others I’ve lived in. An opportunity to drink and dance to music, and everyone’s singing as if it’s a kid’s birthday party at 4 pm on a Saturday? Is that something that would happen anywhere else?

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