Summer is just around the corner and people in Spain are celebrating its arrival. During the night of the 23rd of June, there are huge bonfires all around Spain, especially on the coast and people gather around it to welcome the warmer season, get rid of evil spirits and celebrate together.
It is an ancient tradition that is celebrated from June 20th until June 24th. The most prominent festivities are held in Alicante, although other cities on the peninsula and Canary Islands celebrate the shortest night of the year as well.
The festival of San Juan (Saint John) dates back to pre-Christian times and marks the arrival of the summer solstice, which means it is the longest day and shortest night of the year on June 23rd. The customs differ from city to city but some habits are common among all of them. Since people belief that the fire protects them from demons and other bad magical creatures, jumping over the fire is very popular.
only the bravest dare to jump over the flames
In Alicante, a city on the coast of the Mediterranean, these bonfires are similarly celebrated as the famous Fallas festival in Valencia. Inhabitants of the town start preparing large wooden and paper maché figures already one year prior. These figures that usually portray politicians and society in a satirical way are to be burnt down on the night of San Juan. The fiestas last for about a week and include loud firecrackers, huge bonfires and fireworks until the early morning hours.
fireworks over the marina of Alicante
In Andalusia, San Juan is celebrated on the night of June 23rd with some towns, such as Almuñecar in the province of Granada, allowing the beaches to be used as campsites for a single night. On the beaches of Malaga it’s common to see people jumping over fires which, according to legends, cleanses the body and soul. Afterwards, people should go into the sea at midnight to wash away evil spirits and gain eternal beauty.
Other rituals on the Canary Islands for instance include putting three potatoes beneath the bed, whereas one is peeled, one is unpeeled and one is half peeled. The next morning, people reach under the bed without looking, hoping that they will grab the unpeeled potato as it stands for good health and prosperity.
Women like to prepare perfumed water for these days in June that combines the scents of seven different plants, such as rosemary, roses or laurel. Bathing or washing oneself in this water is another method of purification for the new season.
Menorca, one of the Balearic Islands, is another top place to be for San Juan. In Ciutadella, a town on the western end of the island, there are several days of street parties including horse races and other competitions with these animals. The riders represent ancient Ciutadella society – nobility, clergy, craftsmen and farmers. While riding through the crowd on the streets, locals throw hazelnuts at one another.
a dressed up rider on his way through the streets of Ciutadella
What’s so great about all these events is that they are easily accessible, they are for free, so no entrance tickets are needed and they are full of tradition, joy, music, dance and fun. So if these rituals have cauhgt your attention, do not hesitate to get in touch with us, as we offer special festival programs.