On the eve of Saint John’s feast day, many Spaniards have fiestas, celebrating this saint with firecrackers, fireworks, a special type of cake (Coca de Sant Joan), and more. Even though many Spaniards have stopped practicing their religion, this tradition has been held sacred throughout the country. It is pretty common for families in every city to gather together in the town squares and eat, walk around and talk to friends, and light off fireworks. However, each city has its own unique way to celebrate this day. In Reus, Catalonia (the city in which I have been staying), the city sponsors a five day festival. This year, Saint John’s feast day was on a Friday, so the festival started on Wednesday night and finished on Sunday. At night, starting at around midnight, bands and DJs are stationed at four different stages and play until the morning. Stands selling food and drinks separate the music stages. And people walk from stage to stage, listening to the music and choosing which friends they want to stay and dance with.
This week, I celebrated the eve of Saint John’s feast day with my host family and their friends at their restaurant in the city of Salou. The restaurant is located right next to the beach, with a patio facing the Mediterranean sea with a view of part of Salou’s curved coast. When it began to get dark, people started to light off fireworks. At around 10:30, we ate dinner on the patio with the view of the enchanting ocean and the fireworks. After dinner, the children of the family walked out onto the sidewalk to light fireworks, and we all watched as they added their fireworks to those of the rest of Salou’s.
On Saturday, I celebrated the feast of Saint John again, but this time I celebrated it with friends in the city of Reus. At around 10 at night, we walked around outside at one of the plazas downtown and sat down at a bar. Later, we ate dinner at one of the friend’s apartment flats near town. At 12:30, we left the apartment for the festival. At this time, I was already tired because I am accustomed to going to bed at a decently early time. But it was definitely not too late for others. I was far from the youngest person there. There were people of all ages at the festival, including kids in middle school up until adults in their fifties or sixties. I was surprised that there would be that many young people at a festival, but, being that Reus is pretty small, the atmosphere at this one was familiar – people were constantly shouting across the field, greeting old classmates and friends. Once I started listening to the bands with so many of the other young people of the town, the energy at the festival refueled me and I was able to stay awake dancing with new friends until early morning.
At the festival, two acts stood out to me. The first was a drums group made up of people with all different ages that played a couple songs unique to Reus and Catalonia. This group was really fun to watch because all of the people in it seemed really passionate about their songs and city, and also really seemed to enjoy playing for everybody. But they were also really fun to hear – the drums were really energizing and upbeat. The performers danced to their own music, and fed energy to a crowd equally excited to hear their music. The second act which stood out to me was a band which mixed traditional Spanish dance music with more modern sounds and beats. In many of their songs, they started off with a Spanish dance beat, and then blended in a dubstep/trap electronic beat. They successfully integrated the traditional music with the new electronic music, without taking away the value of either.
So far in Spain, I have learned many things about cultures, people, myself, and life in general. One of the things which has helped me learn this much so far is experience. Through experience, I have met really neat people who have been open to share their lives and traditions with me. Even though I have made some mistakes in Spain (waiting for the bus in a more dangerous part of my town, initially not understanding the Spanish way of greeting people, or directly translating specific words from Spanish to English), it has been through these mistakes that I have been able to learn.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches 5th grade English and History as well as 11th grade Spanish III at a Great Hearts Academy in Glendale, AZ. In addition to teaching, she coaches JV girls basketball and is a writing tutor for The Classical Historian Online Academy. Jessica recently played basketball professionally in Tarragona, Spain, where she taught English ESL and tutored Classical Historian writing students. In 2018, she received her Bachelor's degree in English and Spanish from Hillsdale College, MI.