Summer started in Spain with San Juan celebrations

by Lorraine Williamson
San Juan on the beach

In Spain, there are numerous celebrations known for their joy, liveliness and traditions. One of the most famous and enchanting events is ‘la noche de San Juan’, or midsummer night, which this year is celebrated on the night of 23-24 June. 

The San Juan festival is celebrated to welcome summer. In Catalonia, Galicia and Valencia, it is even an official holiday. However, unlike other years, this year there is no ‘puente’ (an extra-long free weekend) in these Spanish regions.  

Spain celebrates the shortest night of the year 

San Juan is a time when Spaniards celebrate the shortest night of the year, although this was actually on 21 June. Generally, the celebrations take place all over the country but there are certain cities and towns known for the most spectacular celebrations, including Alicante, Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga. 

What are the origins of San Juan celebrations in Spain? 

If we go back in history, it starts with the birth of John the Baptist which is celebrated by the Catholic Church on 24 June. The bonfires during San Juan festivities are supposed to ensure that people are protected from and purified of bad spirits. Although this is the tradition, in many places in Spain it revolves around the fact that summer has now really started. 

Bonfires on Spanish beaches 

One of the highlights of San Juan celebrations are the huge bonfires lit on beaches, town squares and other public places. These bonfires, known as “hogueras” or “fallas”, are built with wood and are symbolically burned to expel bad energy and mark a new beginning.  

Cogesa Expats

Besides the bonfires, there are also fireworks shows. Various cultural activities such as music concerts, dance performances and parades are also organised during San Juan celebrations. The streets are decorated with flags, flowers and colourful ornaments, creating a festive atmosphere. 

Rituals and superstitions mark San Juan 

A particular feature of San Juan celebrations is the ritual of “jumping over the fire” or “making wishes”. According to tradition, people must jump over the bonfire three times at sunset and make a wish at each jump. The superstition is that these wishes come true if people are brave enough to face the fire. 

Bonfire in Lleida ends fatally 

However, the festivities do not always go as planned as was demonstrated by a fatal accident in Lleida. On Friday evening, the local fire brigade received a report of a man who had fallen into one of the bonfires. Althought bystanders and firefighters tried to put out the fire as quickly as possible, it was too late to save the man.  

Besides this terrible accident, firefighters were busy with dozens of reports of bonfires that had spilled over into adjacent bushes and forests. Several times, firefighters were needed to ensure that these did not lead to any wildfires. 

Also read: Fiestas, celebrations, and ferias in Spain 2023

You may also like