La Noche de San Juan: Beaches and Bonfires

Image: To Uncertainty and Beyond

The Spanish tribute to the summer solstice is the Fiesta of San Juan (St John the Baptist), celebrated each year on the night of June 23rd.   This is not a traditional, religious festival when effigies are paraded through the streets.   San Juan is less about costumes, finery and organised events and more about meeting friends and loved ones, eating and drinking together, and having fun.

Many towns and villages along the coast, east of Málaga, allow the beaches to be used as campsites for a single night, turning La Noche de San Juan into one of the biggest fiestas of the year.  So, as the sun sets on the evening of 23rd June, people head down to the beaches to put up their tents, build bonfires, light barbeques, and prepare food – including fresh sardines on skewers. The sound of Spanish guitars and smoke from the many bonfires fill the air.

Image: gildemax

The roots of the Feast of San Juan have their origin in ancient Pagan tradition, as man has long ascribed importance to certain days of the year, with mid-summer´s eve being no exception.  These days, of course, the celebration and parties are more of an excuse for a good time!  There is a friendly atmosphere that crosses age, culture and background, with visitors invited to join in the fun.

You might also see large papier-mâché caricatures being burned, to bring good luck.  Originally these effigies were meant to represent Judas Iscariot, but nowadays the religious significance seems to largely have been lost.  The caricature could just as easily be of a local or national, famous or indeed infamous figure.

Midnight is the climax of the San Juan festival when many town halls arrange huge firework displays, although tradition has it that once the clock strikes twelve you should jump over the bonfire to cleanse the body and soul, and then rush into the sea to wash away evil spirits and be granted eternal beauty.


Image: John_DL

Certain festivals seem to summarize life in Spain, with its love of having a good time in the company of friends and loved ones. The magical night of San Juan is one such event. It is a celebration that is all about change – night to day and fire to water.  The fire to purify, and water to recuperate, refresh, and rejuvenate.

La Noche de San Juan always promises to be a memorable evening and one that certainly needs to be experienced, given half a chance.

Where would you like to be partying the night away on La Noche de San Juan?

If you enjoyed this article, why not have a look at:

Day of the Cross: Día de la Cruz

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One thought on “La Noche de San Juan: Beaches and Bonfires

  1. Pingback: La Noche de San Juan: Families, fires and football! | East of Málaga

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