The Festival of San Juan dates back to pre-Christian times and marks the arrival of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. It is celebrated all over Spain but especially in coastal regions where many people head for the beach, build bonfires and party throughout the night.
The region of Alicante is one of the biggest celebrations of San Juan. Here it is known as ‘Las Hogueras de San Juan’ (Bonfires of St John) and the celebrations take place from 20th to 29th June. In the city of Alicante there are large wooden and papier maché figures (similar to ‘Las Fallas‘ in Valencia) which are displayed in the city’s main squares and are burnt down on the night of San Juan (24th). The burning begins at midnight once a palm tree shaped firework display has been released from Alicante Castle.
Alicante enjoys several days of fiestas with tents called ‘barracas’ set up around town where most of the drinking and dancing takes place. At 2pm every day between 20th and 24th June there are deafening fireworks displays in Plaza Luceros. The celebrations continue after the feast of San Juan with more fireworks every evening on the Postiguet beach until 29th June whilst in the city centre there’s all kinds of entertainment and a medieval market.
In Andalucia, San Juan is celebrated on the night of June 23rd with some towns, such as Almuñecar in Granada, allowing the beaches to be used as campsites for a single night. On the beaches of Malaga it’s common to see people jumping over fires which, according to legend, cleanses the body and soul. Jumping in the sea at midnight is supposed to be a way to wash away evil spirits and to gain eternal beauty. This clearly doen’t work in many cases, just take a look at the faces of some of the revellers early the next morning!
The Balearic Island of Menorca is another top place to be for San Juan. In Ciutadella there are several days of street parties centred on the consumption of vast quantities of the local Mahon gin. Horses with riders go up and down the streets whilst locals throw hazelnuts at one another.