NIGHT OF FIRE: Spain gets ready to celebrate La Noche de San Juan

IT’S among the year’s most anticipated events.

And as the summer solstice approaches, Spain is gearing up to celebrate La Noche de San Juan (St. John’s Eve) on Saturday.

The annual midsummer party on the weekend coinciding with the shortest night of the year sees Spaniards honour the birth date of San Juan – John the Baptist in English – and many parts of the country have their own traditions based heavily on the purifying and cleansing elements of fire and water.

In coastal regions revellers tend to head for the beach, constructing hogueras, or bonfires, around which they eat, drink and dance before typically having a midnight ocean dip.

Effigies representing Judas Escariot might also be thrown into the flames, while in some areas party-goes make wishes known as juras before leaping through the fire three times and heading for the sea to cleanse their sins for the year ahead.

In Cataluña, the Valencian Conmmunity and the Balearics, Saint John is known as Sant Joan and these areas are particularly well-known for their fireworks displays and special foods like the Coca de Sant Joan cake.

Catalans tend to celebrate with correfoc (fire-running) displays and the building of human pyramids dubbed castellers, while in Alicante elaborate figures are burned before the flames are extinguished by fire fighters who then soak onlookers in a ritual known as the Banya.

And in Ciutadella, Menorca, the party lasts for a week and sees the island’s horses dancing and marching through the crowds who later engage in mock battles using hazelnut shells as weapons.

Lanjaron in Granada sees the celebrations descend into a giant water fight, and in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, goat herders bring their animals to the fishing village’s beach before dunking them in the sea.

A custom particular to San Pedro Manrique, Castilla y Leon, sees man walking barefoot over hot coals while carrying a woman on their backs.

It is a truly magical night and not to be missed.

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