Summer is coming and the most magical night of the year as well. If you are taking your Spanish course in Madrid make the most of your stay in the capital and bring yourself to live the Spanish traditions like a native.
“La noche de San Juan” is a feast originally related to the arrival of the summer solstice (June 21), celebrated in all Europe, of pagan origin that was later Christianized, keeping rites and traditions related to fire, water and herbs.
Three symbols that in every city of Spain have the same meaning:
- Fire: it is the purifying element that frees us from bad luck and everything we want to leave behind. If you jump a bonfire you will have protection for a year.
- Water: it is said that this night all waters have healing virtues. This is why in many places it is customary to bathe in the sea or the river.
- Herbs: it is believed that plants multiply their healing properties this night.
In Celtic culture, the Druids celebrated the arrival of the summer solstice by lighting large bonfires, seeking the blessing of land, men and livestock.
The Greeks lit purifying fires in honor of Apollo, the god of the sun and light. The Romans dedicated to their goddess Minerva a festival with fire as the protagonist.
In Mexico, the Aztec warriors performed rituals of sun worship, so that fire would help the earth and men to obtain good harvests.
The Berbers of northern Morocco and Algeria have been lighting bonfires for centuries in the squares of towns and places that need to be purified.
For the Hindu tradition the summer solstice represents the path of the ancestors. The ashes of the fires were kept all year.
WHERE SHOULD I GO TO CELEBRATE SAN JUAN?
San Juan night is celebrated everywhere in Spain. However, we recommend going to a city or village with coast to make it more magical. The best places to celebrate it are the next ones:
The most famous one in Spain and the official fest of the city since 1928. People prepare magnificent bonfires with figures (similar to “las fallas”). At midnight starts “la banyà”, it consists on going into the sea and jump 7 waves backwards to remove negative energy. To finish the ritual, people look for a medicinal herb and take it to their homes.
Menorca (Balearic Islands)
Saint Joan is the island patron in Menorca (it’s celebrated from 17th to 25th of June). And they celebrate it with bonfires, of course, but horse riders are also very important. They make a show where their horses jump among people, as a symbol of power.
Bonfires are made to burn a rag doll similar to the scarecrow called “Jua”. People wash their faces at midnight so as not to lose youth or beauty. That night nobody can look themselves in the mirror after bathing so that the spell is effective.
A Coruña (Galicia)
The ritual goes from collecting wood (to make bonfires) to the parade of the witches (“meigas”) on the streets. They also make bonfires at the beach and dance around them while drinking wine and finish this ritual swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.
Now you have the perfect excuse to visit the Spanish coast these San Juan days after finishing your Spanish lessons and to take advantage of meeting new people and improving your Spanish. If you’d like to visit other cities of Spain or discover Madrid, follow these links Segovia & La Granja, curiosities and places you cannot miss and Pastries in Madrid