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San Juan Night: Midsummer madness hits Spain
24 June 2019 @ 00:51

SUMMER solstice celebrations are nothing uniquely Spanish; in fact, they're a Celtic tradition, meaning they stretch across the mass of regions this ancient cultural movement is thought to have pervaded, from Scotland to Scandinavia and from Galicia to Cantabria. Sweden's is particularly famous, with its Celtic crosses coated in yellow flowers set up on beaches, and folk songs, mainly about alcohol, sung with increasingly (deliberately) slurred speech.

But for Spain the main festivities happen two days after the longest night, on the day of the Catholic calendar which coincides with Saint John, or San Juan, and in no two provinces is it the same. In the aforementioned northern regions, plus their joint neighbour Asturias, the Celtic element is alive and well, whilst on the Costa del Sol it resembles Guy Fawkes' Night on the beach (without actually being about the man who reportedly tried to blow up London's Houses of Parliament), on the east coast, revellers take their lives into their hands (or at least their physical integrity from the ankles down) by leaping over bonfires on the sands, whilst inland, processions, Mediaeval craft markets, live music, food fairs, foam parties and even, in at least one case, blasting everyone with water are part of the schedule.

Wherever you are tonight (Sunday, June 23), there'll be something happening to start off your summer with a bang – literally as well as metaphorically.


On the coast

In most parts of the country blessed with a beach, San Juan Night involves bonfires, or hogueras, of some description; these are simple piles of junk wood set alight in the provinces of Valencia and Castellón and the northern parts of that of Alicante, as well as Barcelona, among others, but in most of the province of Alicante they take the form of gigantic, colourful papier mâché statues satirising celebrities and current affairs, which are then burnt down, in a very similar festival to that of the Fallas across the rest of the Comunidad Valenciana in March.



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