San Juan

These are the weird and wonderful ways Spain celebrates midsummer

These are the weird and wonderful ways Spain celebrates midsummer
Will you be leaping over flames tonight? Photo: AFP
No-one celebrates midsummer with quite the same flair and diversity as Spain where every region has it’s distinct traditions.

The feast of St John, known as San Juan in Spain, is a celebration that usually involves elements of fire and water, dancing, drinking and staying up into the early hours in order to cleanse sins and store up the sun’s energy for the year ahead.

Whether it be effigy burning, dousing each other water, or touching the belly of a prancing stallion, midsummer revelries take place from coast to coast and are some of the most popular fiestas in all of Spain.

In coastal areas, townsfolk head to the beach for a night of revelry around huge bonfires, with dancing, drinking and feasting often culminating in a midnight dip in the ocean.

In Alicante elaborate effigies are paraded through town before being thrown into the flames while the streets pulsate with music, dancing and firecrackers.

Politicans take centre stage in Alicante. Photo: AFP

Menorca has the strange tradition of horses brought among the crowds to dance and prance while onlookers attempt to touch the equine belly, a feat that ensures good luck for the year.

A horse rears in a crowd in the Menorcan town of Ciutadella. Photo: AFP

In Catalonia, where the Sant Joan parties are particularly popular and the day of June 24th is a public holiday, crowds will gather on beaches to dance around bonfires and watch spectacular firework displays.

Photo: AFP

Revellers in Lanjarón, in the Albujarras south of Granada, choose to celebrate midsummer with an almighty waterfight when residents use every receptacle to hand – hoses, buckets, water pistols – to douse their neighbours.

In the Pyrenean town of Isil near Lleida, residents mark the summer solstice by zigzaging from mountain top to town square carrying burning branches. After a huge bonfire, townsfolk dance until dawn.

Las Falles in Isil involve a lot of burning log carrying. Photo: Andres Merizalde / Flickr

In A Coruña in the northwestern region of Galicia, after a public holiday of parades, dancing and bagpipes, hundreds of bonfires are lit on the beaches where people leap over the flames, dine on sardines and then take a purifying midnight swim.

Sardines are a must for San Juan night in A Coruña. Photo: Daniel Rubio / Flickr

In Puerto de la Cruz though, it is the goats that take a purifying dip at San Juan with the celebration of the Baño de las Cabras. Goat herders bring their flock to the beach and the bleating animals are (somewhat reluctantly) dunked into the waves.

The goats get cleansed in Puerto de la Cruz. Photo: AFP

In the Basque village of Bakio, evil spirits are banished by “Zanpanzar” who stomp to the rhythm of giant cowbells.

These unusual outfits are worn in Bakio. Photo: AFP

While in San Pedro Manrique in Soria province, the midsummer ritual involves men walking barefoot over hot coals without burning their feet… Oh, and with the added challenge (and weight) of carrying a woman on their back.

Photo: AFP

Wherever you are in Spain, Happy San Juan!

READ MORE: El Colacho: Is this Spain's most bizarre festival?

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