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The Traveller's Magazine
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Spain welcomes the upcoming summer season next week with the annual festival of San Juan with bonfires, music, drink and dance. It is the shortest night of the year and marks the beginning of summer solstice. Join the Saint John’s Day celebrations around Spain, it is an experience you will never forget.

Taking place every year on the eve of June 24th, Saint John’s Day, this festival is marked by its huge bonfires. Since the late 1920s Spaniards have celebrated the San Juan by building huge piles of old furniture and lighting it on fire on the night of June 24th. Originating in Alicante, it quickly caught on in other areas of Europe too.

The sun is the centre of this festival, a sign of fertility and wealth, and fire is the most prominent symbol. It is said that those who jump over the bonfires three times at midnight are cleansed and can start the rest of the year with a clean slate.

The other symbol of the festival is water, which is why this party is most popular among seaside cities and towns. It is custom to go swimming after the festival because the water is supposed to be cleansing after days of celebrations.

The night is the highlight for many youth, marking the beginning of a summer full of parties and festivals. The evening is finished off with a spectacular fireworks show. Sweets, champagne, music, bonfires, fireworks and the beach… that’s all you need for a San Juan party!

The best place to celebrate: Barcelona

If you find yourself in Barcelona for this festival you won’t be disapointed. Each barrio has its own party with bonfires on the beach or dancing throughout the streets. It’s wild and can easily get out of hand! The bars along the beach pump out music until dawn in Barceloneta and Mar Bella.

How to enjoy the party:

  • If you don’t care for crowded places and a wild party scene, enjoy the San Juan festival in a barrio away from the beach.
  • Bring drinks in plastic bottles instead of glass.
  • Do not bring a bag if you can help it, also leave your important documents or ID cards at home in case of theft.
  • As for money, bring only what you need.
  • To avoid losing your keys, secure them with a chain or key fob to your pants.
  • Avoid falling asleep on the beach, the police will be your wakeup call at 7 in the morning, which isn’t so pleasant.
  • Get a pair of earplugs against the music, shouts and firecrackers.

Where are you going to celebrate Saint John’s Day? Catch a cheap flight to Spain and join in the festivities in Alicante or Barcelona.

Img: Santamarta / flickr cc

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2 responses to “Saint John says, “Let’s Party!”

  1. Wow! It sounds absolutely magical!
    But you know… I wonder what Saint John has to do with all of this, or it just happened that Saint John's Day fell on the same day as summer solstice? However these types of traditions start, it sounds like party I wouldn't want to miss out on 🙂

  2. San Juan is a very popular party also in Galicia and other parts of Spain, here there is also a bonfire in each “Barrio”, some smaller some bigger, but unless in the citycentre never too crowded. Typical are sardines on the barbecue, sweetcorn bread and wine.
    The king of the night is of course the bonfire, jumping it brings luck, as well as writing on a paper all the bad things we want to get rid off and throwing it into the fire.
    Furthermore there are things which are not fire related, such as jumping seven waves in the sea (it brings luck and is good for fertility).
    We also put a bunch of typical herbs of the region in a bucket with water and let it get the influence of the moon during the whole night. In the morning, we wash our faces with the scented water, which ensures us beauty for the whole upcoming 12 months.
    This is a very magical night, were all kind of spells are believed to be more powerful than ever and when the “Meigas” (Galician witches) are known to be very active 🙂
    Sometimes we also drink “Queimada”: , but this can be done anytime during the year, preferrabily outdoors in Summer.

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