Have you ever heard of the festival of San Juan in Spain? If you’ve ever happened to have been in the country, and especially on its beaches, on the 23rd June, you’ll have been hard-pressed to have ignored the celebrations. But what’s it all about? Read on to discover everything you need to know about San Juan in Spain.
What is La Noche de San Juan in Spain?
San Juan’s, or St John’s, feast day falls on the 24th of June every year, but it’s on St John’s eve, the 23rd of June, that the celebrations take place. Just a few short days after midsummer, it’s a Spanish festival celebrated on beaches all over the country that welcomes the summer ahead.
Most Spanish people consider it to mark the true beginning of summer, which the season when Spain comes into its own. So, as you can imagine, it’s a fantastic excuse for a party.
This is very much a fire-focused celebration and the bonfires of St John that burn on the country’s beaches are legendary. The bonfires of San Juan are said to purify and protect, warding off evil spirits.
Some people celebrate with family, some with friends, and some make new friends on the beach, but there’s always food, drink and music involved.
Some places are busier than others for these celebrations, one of the most popular festivals in Spain, but you’re pretty much guaranteed a great atmosphere wherever you go. If you opt for any of Spain’s big coastal cities, expect crowds.
What superstitions are associated with the San Juan festival in Spain?
Some people still believe that this is a magical night one which ancient pagan gods are closer to humans. That’s the origin of many of the rituals that people still take part in on the night on the San Juan festival.
Traditions vary all over the country, but fire-jumping is widespread, and is meant to strengthen the sun, or to burn your problems away and bring good luck. It’s traditional to jump at least three times, but some people jump up to nine.
In Malaga, for example, as well as in lots of other spots in Spain, some people make wishes when midnight comes around on the night of the fiesta of San Juan. They write down their wishes for the months ahead and the things that they want to say goodbye to on the night of San Juan on pieces of paper.
They then burn them in the bonfires of St John, symbolising liberation from the past and hope for the future. After that, they run into the sea for a swim, picturing those wishes coming true.
Wherever you are, the rituals linked to San Juan in Spain are all to do with fire and water. People might burn something old to represent a new start, swim in the ocean to purify their soul, or drink from fountains, which some believe take on magical healing properties on the night.
What to take with you for a San Juan party
If you’re celebrating on a beach that has bars and restaurants, then they’ll be open and selling food and drinks throughout the evening, so you don’t need to come very prepared.
You will, however, need your swimming costume and a towel. Make sure to take a warm layer with you, as although Spanish nights are typically very warm by this time of year, you’d be surprised at how chilly it can get on the coast.
If you’re heading outside the city, then you won’t be able to rely on beach bars or ready-made bonfires, so you’ll need your own supplies of food, drink, firewood and music.
Wherever you’re going to spend the night of San Juan in Spain, make sure you bring along bags that you can put all your rubbish in, so that you can recycle it later, as there have been big problems with plastic waste from the festivities being washed out to sea.
Where to celebrate Spain’s bonfire festival
As we’ve mentioned, beaches all around the country fill up on the night of San Juan in Spain, and traditions vary slightly everywhere you go.
You’re bound to have a good time wherever you end up, but if you want to make a trip of it then there are certain hotspots that are worth planning your holiday around.
For example, in Barcelona, San Juan, or Sant Joan in Catalan, is also known as the ‘night of fire’, and the main focus is on fireworks. Barceloneta beach is a fantastic place to enjoy the festivities, just make sure you get there early to grab a spot.
The Alicante festival takes things to another level, with a 9-day festival running from the 20th to the 29th of June, with a ceremonial burning of effigies, and a fireworks competition every night.
Valencia and Tenerife are also fantastic places to spend this unique Spanish celebration, the festival of San Juan. So, grab your swimsuit, kick off your shoes and get ready to dance the night away on the Spanish sand, saying hello to summer.