Celebrating Noche de San Juan

Jumping the fire in Madrid Credit: Valentin Sama-Rojo Shutterstock

It does seem that the Spanish enjoy any excuse to party and the night of June 23 known as Noche San Juan is the perfect example.

Birth of John the Baptist

It holds both cultural significance and a religious basis, as it marks the commemoration of the birth of St John the Baptist with a lively atmosphere, beach bonfires and parties until the early hours.

The Spanish San Juan festival is renowned for its bonfires, symbolising the purification and renewal of the soul with friends and families gathering on the beaches, eating, drinking and listening to music often provided by their councils.

At midnight the sky is often illuminated by dazzling fireworks and at one time with miniature hot air balloons but this latter practice is now universally banned for obvious reasons.

Although the most extravagant celebrations take place around the coast line, there are still plenty of bonfires inland but wherever the celebration takes place, it is not uncommon to see lines of people waiting to jump over the embers of one of the many moragas (bonfires), an act based in the belief of fire warding off evil spirits and curing disease.

Fire can be dangerous

Let’s not forget however that there is always a potential danger with fire, especially if the person undertaking the traditional three jumps has been drinking all night!

For environmental reasons and the fact that there is still a drought across much of the country, many councils are suggesting that bonfires are not really appropriate, but it is a reasonable guess that there will be plenty on the night.

As June 24 is the actual saint’s day,  adults and children on the coasts head to the water as the clock turns midnight to bathe, purifying themselves from the sins of the year and bringing good luck for the year ahead.

So it’s a night of festivity, where on the Costa del Sol in particular, Chiringuitos offer a selection of food and drink, especially the traditional espetos de sardinas (sardines on a spit, cooked over embers).

Back to work on Monday

The only problem is that it takes place on a Sunday this year, so those who have to work the following day may find themselves with a bit of a sore head and no option to sleep in.

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Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing newsdesk@euroweeklynews.com, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page www.facebook.com/EuroWeeklyNews