Last Sunday (June 23) many locations across the Spain welcomed the summer starting in the evening prior to Saint John’s Feast (June 24) with celebrations of the ‘shortest’ night of the year, “la Noche de San Juan”.
As it happens with many other festivities, although the birth of the Saint is celebrated, its origin is most likely pagan, precisely aligned with the summer solstice. Although the Iberian Peninsula is the main spot for this celebration with many municipalities holding bank holidays, the Nordics and UK in Europe, and several countries across Latin America (including Brazil due to Portugal’s influence) also hold festivities igniting in the eve of that day.
The bonfires (“hogueras”) on the streets are the night’s main activity across Spain. The city of Alicante is very well known for that, taking also advantage of its large beaches to make them. Interestingly, besides having people ‘jumping’ over the fire, there is also a competition for the best artwork that inevitably will also be burned at the end of festivity to make a bonfire out of it. Congratulations to “la Cerámica” (ceramic) for this year’s award!
Other activities in the “Noche de San Juan” include firecrackers, fireworks, giant parades (Barcelona), burning of dolls related to the history of the city (Cadiz), or “queimadas” (burned coffee and liquor in the region of Galicia) in case you want that extra punch of alcohol combined with some caffeine to consistently party along the fire that night.
There are also many legends taking place during Sant John’s eve. Well known ones (with their local and region variations and names) are around the “Encantada” (bewitched): a young and beautiful lady suddenly appearing in a symbolic place (cave, castle or mystical natural environment) that night that bewitches those who seeing her, usually a shepherd or a farmer.
From the culinary perspective and again leveraging the fire, barbeques are frequent. Besides meat, sardines (Málaga) are also grilled. Other plates include meatballs and ‘Macarrons’ (sort of sweet noodles) (Balearic Islands), ‘Coca’ (pastry with sweet salty versions) (Catalonia and Region of Valencia), and even gazpacho (cold tomato soup) (Albacete). Wines of different types across the country and cyder in the North of Spain (yes, there are locale producers over there) are used as pairing.
What do you think of Saint John’s Feast? Have you ever celebrated “San Juan”? Any similarity with other Saint John’s feasts across the glove?
Links of Interest
Barceló, Pin and Travel, Los Rituales para la Noche de San Juan más Sorprendente
El Comidista, Veinte Platos que se Toman en San Juan
El Español, Recetas para la Noche de San Juan
Hogueras.com, La Cerámica, Hoguera Ganadora 2019
Wikipedia, Fiesta de San Juan
Wikipedia, Leyenda de la Encantada
Photos: Artwork of “la Ceramica”. Alicante’s Port and Castle of Santa Barbara on the top of its hill.