San Juan Fiesta – one of Spain’s biggest celebrations

THIS picture of Spanish men jumping over a bonfire comes as thousands prepare to do the same in one of the country’s biggest fiestas this Sunday.

Jumping over bonfires at midnight is one of the many traditions of the Noche de San Juan fiesta (Saint John’s Eve).

The festival closely coincides with midsummer celebrations held elsewhere in Europe and the world and also comes days after the Summer Solstice.

San Juan evolved out of celebrations which traditionally took place the night before Saint John’s feast day.

John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus Christ who baptised him at the beginning of his ministry as a rabbi, was born on June 24 according to Christian teachings.

The way San Juan is celebrated throughout Spain varies from place to place. A Common feature in Spain and across the world is the lighting of bonfires.

The Spanish tend to light their fires on beaches, though they are also lit in some places inland including in Madrid.

The bonfires are one of three traditional elements of the fiesta, with their symbolism and significance traceable to pre-Christian pagan religions.

Midnight sees fiesta goers run into the sea, which has its origin in water being seen as purifying and as working best with medicinal plants, another traditional element.

Those celebrating then jump over the fires either for good luck or to make a wish, depending on the area. Fires were believed to ward off evil spirits in pagan cultures.

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