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Thousands of revellers will head to the beaches ton Sunday. SUR
Illuminating celebrations along the Costa del Sol to honour San Juan
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Illuminating celebrations along the Costa del Sol to honour San Juan

Bonfires and fireworks will light up the beaches at midnight on Sunday, when a saint’s feast combines with pagan rituals that signal the start of summer

Tony Bryant

Costa del Sol

Friday, 21 June 2024, 11:03

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Beaches along the Costa del Sol will be illuminated by blazing bonfires on Sunday 23 June, as thousands of revellers head to the coast to enjoy the Noche de San Juan. These festivities reach their peak at midnight, when huge firework displays mark the arrival of the feast of St John the Baptist, which is celebrated on 24 June. This is one of the few saints’ days that commemorate the anniversary of the birth rather than the death of the saint.

As in most countries that recognise this feast, festivities are held the night before: St John’s Eve. San Juan, however, coincides with the beginning of the summer and the associated pagan rituals, of which fire and water are the main protagonists.

Bonfires are lit to ward off evil spirits that are said to roam freely at sunset, and believers (and those just out for the thrill of it all) traditionally jump over the fire three times to eliminate their problems and worries. It is also claimed that a midnight dip in the sea will cleanse and purify the soul, because, according to tradition, the water is at its purest on the eve of San Juan; it is also believed to bring happiness for the next 12 months.

The celebrations, which generally start around 10pm, also include the tradition of the ‘moraga’, beach barbecues that most often involve grilling sardines.

The high point of the night comes at midnight with the burning of the ‘júa’, an effigy similar to England’s Guy Fawkes. These are burned on bonfires as a representation of everything that must be purified.

Festivities along the Costa

The shortest night of the year arrives with special intensity on Malaga’s La Malagueta beach and celebrations also take place on the Misericordia (where the burning of the municipal ‘júa’ takes place), Pedregalejo and El Palo beaches; while other events are held further along the coast in Torre del Mar (Marítimo Levante), and Rincón de la Victoria (Playa El Tajo).

Towns on the western Costa del Sol also mark the festivity, such as Torremolinos, which celebrates the Moraga de San Juan in Plaza del Remo in Carihuela. The Montemar Alto neighbourhood celebrates its traditional San Juan fair on 21 and 22 June. The fair is held in the sports complex (Calle Decano Jacinto de Mesa) between 9pm and 3am and features live music, traditional cuisine and children’s fairground attractions.

Benalmádena fair

Benalmádena has special reason to celebrate the feast of St John, because this festivity announces the start of the town’s annual fair. On Sunday, San Juan, the town’s patron, is celebrated on the section of beach between Playa Santa Ana and Castillo el Bil Bil. Once the spectacular firework display is over, many people head to the fairground for the inauguration of the casetas and the official turning on of the lights, signalling several days of celebrations and religious services.

The fair is held in Parque La Paloma between 23 and 30 June, and, as in previous years, the town hall has organised a full schedule of events and concerts, including rock, pop, flamenco and copla, along with children’s activities, and, of course, the fairground attractions.

The day fair begins on Monday 24 June and will be held in Plaza de la Mezquita from 1pm until 7pm, and will offer all the traditional aspects of an Andalusian summer fair. Many of the bars and restaurants in Arroyo de la Miel will also join in the festivities, offering light entertainment throughout the day.

Other events take place on the Playa San Francisco in Fuengirola; in Marbella, where the fun revolves around the El Pinillo beach, and on the La Rada beach in Estepona.

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