June 18th, 2012
Midsummer. A magical night all over the world where pagan rituals are celebrated and embraced. The night of the 23rd June is traditionally celebrated in Spain with gusto – bonfires and ritual cleansing, dancing and eating, whether you’re on the beach or beached up in a mountain village! So come to Spain for San Juan and see what all the fuss is about – it’s more than just another fiesta. A veritable Midsummer Night’s Dream – Spanish style!
Cleaning up your act
The day of the 24th is actually the feast day of San Juan – or St John the Baptist. and no matter how bad you have been all year, the night before will see your spirit cleansed and rejuvenated for the 12 months ahead if you follow a few simple steps! Head for one of the many stunning Spanish beaches and join in the frolics – you’ll need energy, a sense of fun, a towel and your best jumping legs! Purification and a great party awaits!
Pure and simple
If you are heading to the beach, then the idea is to dip yourself in the surf underneath the midnight moonlight and wash your feet and your face exactly three times. This will ensure that you’re not just wet and cold but free from all your wrongdoings of the past year and guaranteed a happy 12 months ahead – with three wishes to boot – how can you miss it?! You are apparently guaranteed to look instantly prettier by the next day – but mustn’t glance at a mirror until the 24th!
How high can you jump?
Okay, all dried off?….next up are the bonfires. Las Hogueras de San Juan. These days made of wood - originally they would have been effigies representing that bad boy Judas Iscariot – the sight of beaches filled with hundreds of fires burning is truly a spectacle. Effigies are still laboriously created and duly burnt in Alicante.
Dances are performed and the most brave – and of course sober – will leap across the licking flames…wear shorts if you intend to do this! The fires will be lit at midnight but will continue to burn all night long until the dawn breaks over the Mediterranean Sea on the morning of the 24th.
Whole families will take part, there’s no discrimination with age, as with all Spanish get -togethers and fiestas – everyone joins in with the fun. Tortas de San Juan – flat crispy crackers flavoured with honey and anise – and for me sadly addictive - are sold, and skewered sardines are cooked over the fires and eaten with relish. Fireworks blast noisily and merrily into the night sky at the stroke of midnight.
This is the one night of the year when you will be allowed to camp overnight on the beach, if you’re in Andalucia then Nerja and Almuñecar have some of the best celebrations around, so at least bring a jumper, and a blanket for the possibly chilly clear night skies.
Just off the boat?
Travelling down to Spain by car and worried you might miss the party? Not to worry, when you come off the ferry at Santander make your way westward to Soto de la Marina and the aptly named beach of San Juan de la Canal. More bonfires, more fireworks, more merriment – and live music too.
The Cantabrian coastline is as good as any to celebrate the fun of San Juan.
If you find yourself on holiday in the beautiful area of Las Alpujarras in Andalucía, then visit Lanjarón. Where have you noticed that name before? Famous for bottled water you´ve probably ordered some of the famous agua when you last had a meal out in Spain.
Water is certainly the name of the game in the pretty Spa town of Lanjarón for the Noche de San Juan when everyone gets a good soaking at the Fiesta del Agua. Hoses spray, buckets are filled and thrown, balconies and windows empty out water straight onto the revellers heads – so a spare change of clothing is a wise item to bring to this one!
Read more about Lanjarón here – it makes a great base to explore the rest of the Alpujarras region too. The little white villages of this area will drag out oil drums and turn them into impromtu barbeques for grilling succulent Sardinas all night – where there´s no beach… there´s still a way!
Wherever you choose to spend this magical night, enjoy the spirit of San Juan in Spain. It´s said that Pagan Gods make themselves visible for this one night of the year – I would imagine that´s in direct relation to another Saint….. the amount of San Miguel you manage to down! It´s the best time of year to pick St John´s Wort, in Tenerife they traditionally bathe the goats on this night! Most Spaniards -unlike us hardy Northern Europeans – wouldn´t think of a dip in the sea before San Juan – far too cold!
There´s only one real rule to remember – as with all Spanish fiestas and ferias – the key thing to remember is….enjoy!