San Juan's night is full of bonfires, fireworks, music, dancing, sardines and bread. It's the welcome to summer, and its celebration takes place during the shortest night of the year.
Many towns, cities or villages celebrate this first Summer Fiesta. All the celebrations share some things in common, yet each also has its peculiarity.
In cities and towns, particularly those close to the sea, the celebration is very important. Lalín, in Galicia, celebrates O Corpiño, during which people touch an image to botar fora o meigallo, to take out bad things. In Alicante's Fogueres de Sant Joan, two hundreds bonfires burn all over the city during the night. In Palamós and Roses (Girona), fireworks and bonfires are made on the beach, while in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the people build bonfires of waste products, and after the burn, bathe in the sea, which they have filled with fruits and flowers.
Bonfires, fire and water are the protagonists of the night. Men and women, young people 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, especially for women, requires the women of the house to prepare perfumed water combining the scents of seven plants - among them rosemary, roses and laurel - and to bathe or wash their faces in the water, again to purify themselves for the new season.
The night of San Juan in Puerto De La Cruz (Tenerife)
The eve of San Juan (June 23rd) is magical for any coastal city of the Canary Island of Tenerife as the light from the numerous bonfires illuminate the sky of the shortest night of the year thus signaling the arrival of the summer solstice.
The bonfires’ flames, nourished with old cast-offs and useless items, symbolize purification. The bonfires are generally lit on the beach to allow the magic of the fire to be complemented by the power of the sea.
This celebration is of great importance in the city of Puerto de la Cruz where various cultural acts such as concerts and pyromusical shows begin in the late afternoon around the Castillo San Felipe and Playa Jardin. This is where thousands of people get together and surrender to the popular fiesta with candles and wishes, where in order for their wish to come true, it must first be written on a piece of paper and casted onto the fire.
According to tradition, anyone who successfully jumps 3 times over the same bonfire will benefit from good luck and good health for the rest of the year. For the less daring, a traditional purifying splash in the waters of the Atlantic at midnight reaps the same results.
Tradition also dictates placing 3 potatoes (peeled, un-peeled and half-peeled) underneath the bed before going to sleep. The next morning, one must pull out 1 potato (without looking) which will foreshadow what the rest of the year has in store: the peeled potato signifies monetary problems; the one that is half-peeled means many ups and downs; and the un-peeled potato calls for great health and economic prosperity.
As dawn breaks and the ashes of the bonfires can still be palpable in the atmosphere, it is time for the traditional Baño de Cabras (the bathing of the goats): local goat keepers from Valle de la Orotavas bring their flock of goats to the fishing port of Puerto de la Cruz to fulfill the ancestral aboriginal tradition of purifying the animals, much to the amazement of nearby tourists!