San Juan is finally here! The most magical night of the year is also one of the shortest in the Northern Hemisphere. Many people celebrate around the famous bonfires, but few know the true origin of this festival which gathers millions of people worldwide.
The tradition of lighting fires during this celebration comes from ancient pagan solstice rituals symbolising purification and regeneration. The earliest known rites took place around the year 5,000 B.C. People at that time worshipped the sun and lit fires as if to extend the life of the great star, fearing that it would not return, and that the night and the cold would seize them.
Today, this celebration lives on in every corner of the planet in a special and different way. In Spain, there are many rituals, and here we list a selection of our favourites to get your summer vacation started:
1) Bonfires in Alicante
They may be the most famous of the peninsula. The city beaches fill with groups of people around pyres that burn until midnight. Later, the most intrepid leap over the coals.
2) “Noite Meiga” in La Coruña, Galicia
Perhaps the oldest festival of all, legendary traditions tell of “meigas” (witches) while bonfires burn all night to scare away evil spirits.
3) Festes de Sant Joan in Ciutadella, Menorca
Besides the bonfires, the stars of this celebration are the horses, who dance festooned among crowds marvelling at their beauty and nobility.
4) Nit de San Joan, Barcelona
“Devils” perform spectacles of fire in the neighborhoods of the old city, and the beaches flood with visitors looking to enjoy the fireworks and watch the sunrise, enjoying the famous coca de Sant Joan with a good cava.
5) The burning of “júas” in Malaga
Gathered on the beaches, residents enjoy fireworks, and as tradition dictates, burn “júas” (rag dolls). Of course, you can’t miss the skewers of grilled sardines!