St John's Night (Noche de San Juan)


San Juan is a festival celebrated on June 23rd through to the early hours of June 24th, a magical night that sees in the summer season.  The celebration takes place during the shortest night of the year; the summer solstice. It is a celebration that is usually held on the beach with roaring bonfires, rum and coke, good food and friends. Legends, tradition and magical rituals are connected by the elements of fire and water.

Bonfire on San Juan's Night

Some people believe that on this magical night paranormal events can occur because ancient pagan gods get closer to humans. For this reason many magical rituals are celebrated. Young people jump over fires which, according to legend, gives more strength to the sun, which loses hours of light during the summer.

It is also a night full of Superstition. If you want to be lucky for the next year you may want to:

  • Jump over a bonfire.
  • Burn a piece of paper with your lovers name on it.
  • Burn something old and personal to leave behind bad spirits from the past and start a new phase.
  • Swimming in the ocean after midnight purifies the soul and body.
  • Fountains and natural water resources become magic and have healing properties.

Every region in Spain has different local traditions, however all of them are related to fire and water.

Dancing and praying around bonfires, and in some areas burning an effigy, which originally symbolised Judas Iscariot.  Like most Christian festivals, pagan and religious tradition meet in this celebration.

In cities and towns, particularly those close to the sea, the celebration is very important.  

Here in Gran Canaria, the people build bonfires and bathe in the sea, which they have filled with fruits and flowers as offerings. You can see older people being assisted into the sea by their families to take the water's magical properties.

Bonfires, fire and water really are the stars of the night. Men and women, teenagers and children, all dedicate their days and afternoons to the preparation of bonfires.

According to tradition, if people jump three times over a bonfire on San Juan's night, they will be cleansed and purified, and their problems burned away.

Another tradition in parts of Spain and Latin America, especially for women, requires the women of the house to prepare perfumed water combining the scents of seven aromatic plants and to bathe or wash their faces in the water, again to purify themselves for the new season.

Have a great night wherever you spend it. 

Daniel Dixon