La Noche de San Juan, the most magical night in the world

24th June 1478: the Aragonese captain Juan Rejὸn, appointed to conquer Gran Canaria Island by the Spanish Crown, found a city from the first encampment of his army, situated in the middle of palm wood. So, it born Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

From that day, St. John’s Day in Las Palmas is not only a religious holiday, like in all Spain, but, maybe, the most important festival in the year. Every year, thousands of people come to the capital of Canary Island to celebrate the foundation of the city, during the night between 23rd and 24th June, known as Noche de San Juan.

In this night, people go to Playa de Las Canteras, the biggest beach in the city, and spend their time with friends, dancing, eating and drinking (obviously!). Somebody decides to start a fire and make a barbecue.

Together, it waits the midnight, when fireworks are sparkled to the sky, shining the whole beach. It is the signal: Las Palmas has completed another year and finally it is possible to celebrate that.

Everyone on the beach takes off his clothes and go to the sea for a little swimming by walking backwards: it is a wish to have a good year for himself and for the city.

It’s narrated this is a sort of ritual of purification that Canary people have been doing for centuries, maybe as a reminiscence of ancient rituals of pre-hispanic population, that, in the shortest night in the year, purified their bodies and their souls with rites of fire and water.

 After having touched the water of the Ocean, the bravest ones wait for the sunrise on the beach.

At the same time, there is a big concert which entertains tourists and young people on the seafront, where important artists play until late at night.

This is one of the most important moments in the year not only for Las Palmas but also for the whole island. In Arucas, the ancient volcano crater where the city is located is revived by spectacular fireworks, while in Telde there is a particular tradition: some people put laurel branches in the windows of their home or write their wishes on a paper and burn it. There are chronicles that tell of burning dried cacti on this short, exciting night where something so impossible seems to really be consumed by the flames.

In short, the Noche de San Juan is a night full of traditions and vibes, where primordial elements are mixed with contemporary uses and where you can find how ancient rituals can be linked to needs to have fun. If you are in Gran Canaria at the end of June, don’t miss one of the most particular festivals in the world.

 

Andrea Luciani