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Spain prepares for the traditional Fiesta de San Juan

Bonfires are a traditional part of San Juan.
Bonfires are a traditional part of San Juan. / SUR
  • The night of San Juan is shrouded in pagan rituals; of which fire and water are the main protagonists

The Fiesta de San Juan (St John the Baptist) will be celebrated in style once again this year, as hundreds of bonfires are set to illuminate the beaches along the Costa del Sol.

Noche de San Juan closely coincides with the summer solstice, also referred to as Midsummer. The Christian holy day is celebrated on 24 June, but in most countries festivities are held the night before, on the eve of St John.

Bonfires were lit to protect against the evil spirits that were said to roam freely when the sun turned towards the south. It is said that jumping over the fire three times will burn away ones problems and a midnight dip in the sea is said to clean and purify the soul.

According to tradition, the water is at its purest on the eve of San Juan, so it is claimed to heal skin ailments and grant happiness for the next 12 months.

At midnight, huge firework displays mark the arrival of San Juan and the revelers celebrate with music and the traditional grilling of sardines over open fires.

The shortest night of the year arrives with special intensity on the Malagueta beach in Malaga city, and in addition to the fireworks, live music and the traditional ‘espetos’ (grilled sardines on a skewer), midnight sees the burning of the ‘juas’, a rag doll similar to the Guy Fawkes effigy.

Torre del Mar celebrates the night with a huge beach party on the Paseo Maritimo Levante. Celebrations get going at 8pm with live bands, DJs and entertainment, and a contest for the best ‘jua’. The party continues well into the early hours.

The Moraga de San Juan in Torremolinos takes place in the Plaza del Remo in Carihuela. ‘Moraga’ means to ‘roast in the open air’ and refers to the tradition of grilling sardines on the beach.

A large bar will be erected on the beach serving drinks and tapas, and of course sardines, and the evening will feature live bands and music.

The firework display will commence at midnight, after which hundreds of people will head for the sea in order to wash away their sins and splash their face in the water in order to preserve beauty for the next twelve months.

Other San Juan parties take place in Benalmádena Costa, next to the Bil Bil Castle, and also in Marbella, where extravagant events are planned for Nikki Beach. The fiesta will also be honoured on the Sonora Beach in Estepona.

Certain festivals seem to summarise life in Spain, with its love of having a good time, and the Night of San Juan is definitely one of these events.