Midsummer night party on Spanish beaches during Noche de San Juan

by Lorraine Williamson
San Juan

Kind of like celebrating New Year, but amid summer. Thursday night it’s Noche de San Juan. The eve before San Juan’s Day (24th of June) is Spain’s midsummer night celebration. Along the coast, people flock to the beach to spend the evening and night partying.

At midnight, don’t be surprised to see large lines of people walking hand in hand backward into the sea. Sometimes even with clothes on. If you do so, you are assured of happiness for the entire following year. Other sources say that you will look just as young for the entire next year as to when you walk into the sea. You can also make a wish before entering the water. Saint John will then fulfill it. 

Bonfires 

From about nine o’clock the beaches fill up and large groups of people settle in with cool boxes, lots of food, drinks, tables, and chairs to eat, drink, barbecue, dance and party until the early hours. Officially it is forbidden, but the authorities turn a blind eye to bonfires here and there. As soon as the flames reach an acceptable height, the bravest of the group leap over them. This too would bring good luck. 

San Juan Bautista 

Summer will have officially started for three days, but over the centuries the midsummer night celebration in Spain has merged with the Christian celebration of San Juan Bautista. The original purpose of the fires was to give the sun extra strength for the summer months. It loses power and the days in our Northern Hemisphere are already getting shorter. 

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Rituals and traditions 

Everywhere in Spain, San Juan is celebrated with different rituals or traditions. For example, in the province of Huelva, rag dolls – the Juanillos – are burned. In Málaga, dolls called Júas are also burned here and there. Horses have a leading role in the Balearic Islands. Riders tour the streets of a village or town and later in the evening gather in the central square where they show the most beautiful arts with their horses. 

Catalonia and Alicante 

In Catalonia, the same celebration is called ‘la Revetlla de Sant Joan’, ‘la Nit del Foc’, ‘la Nit de Les Bruixes’ or ‘la Nit del Rose’ with fires on village squares and the beaches. In Alicante, las Hogueras de Alicante is celebrated between 20 and 24 June in honour of San Juan, but at the same time, this is the city’s annual festival. The literal translation of ‘la hoguera’ is ‘bonfire’, but in Alicante, hogueras can be compared to the falla statues during the Fallas de Valencia. Large dolls that represent politicians or other celebrities or symbolic representations of events in society. 

Also read: Fiestas, celebrations and festivals in Spain 2022

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