Hogueras de San Juan, Bonfires of Saint John

Bonfires of Saint John

While the sun reaches the northernmost point of the equator, people get to the San Juan beach to celebrate with roaring bonfires, friends, drinks and foods. If you have been planning to experience a surreal scene, then you can be a part of the Bonfires of Saint John fest in San Juan. Who knows, you can even get lucky enough to see some pagan gods on this night.

Bonfires being the theme of this night, men, women and children spend most of their time in making the effigies that is to be burned. According to tradition, you can throw yourself over a bonfire three times to get cleansed and purified unless you burn yourself away in the very first attempt.

The Bonfires of Saint John is a traditional festival celebrated across the globe during Midsummer taking place on 23rd June, St. John’s Eve. This is customary in cities of Spain. And the largest celebration is organized in Alicante, wherein this festival is marked the most important. On the other hand, the celebration in Portugal occurs in Porto and it called the Festa de Sao Joao do Porto. The bonfires are popular in Catalan-speaking regions such as Catalonia and in the Valencian Community.

A street puppet bonfire sculpture for the Bonfires of Saint John Festival
A street puppet bonfire sculpture for the Bonfires of Saint John Festival


The Midsummer’s Eve festival has its roots in the ancient celebration of welcoming summer. Bonfires were lit to get rid of the evil spirits that were believed to roam when the sun took the southward fork. While these mythologies keep you mesmerised and a doubtful, you will get good stories to pass onto your next generation.

The Bonfires festival in Alicante came into being in 1928. It was Jose Maria Py who came up with the idea of combining bonfires with Valencian tradition, named ‘fallas’ or ‘falles’ in Valencian. And now this festival is recognised as the most important event in the Alicantinian society.

Both natives and globe trotters flock in the San Juan beach as well, located near Alicante to view the bonfires. The summer solstice looks magical as the fire purifies, water recuperates and people rejuvenate.


Events to Witness

The Bonfires commence on 19th June with the ‘Set Up’ when street ninots, archways and monuments are lined up in the streets. This is followed by ‘desperta’ occurring at 8.00’o clock. A great deal of noise could be heard all over the city awakening the neighbours. Also, you get to witness the spectacle of fireworks.

It is not the end yet as in the night between 23.00 and 6.00 street parties are conducted in the districts of the city. Dance and drink continue to keep the night lively. Aside, the Street Band Parade, the Prize Giving Parade and the Flower Offering Parade that takes place on 21st and 22nd June, respectively. However, it is 24th June that marks the closure of the Bonfires of Saint John festival followed by a magnificent display of fireworks.

But then, this doesn’t cease the partying spirit of the natives as the Bonfires commissions continue with a number of events throughout the year. This includes musical and dancing competition in autumn, Christmas carol competition in December, Beauty of the Fire Contest in May and so much more.

Clothes to Wear

Three types of traditional clothes are worn. The Beauties and the Honor Ladies’ costumes are made of a band in the hair, a small lemon blossom bunch, two hangings, a white round mantilla, a black velvet waist, a black apron braided with jewellery, a petticoat and much more.

On the other hand, the common women costumes should be made of a cross with a black ribbon, a waist made in colours, a long skirt, a white apron, white stockings and a white piece named mantella.  The men are supposed to wear a cotton, white shirt, a scarf around the neck and head, a blanket with pockets, white stockings, a long sash and full white trouser known as zaraguelles.

A street puppet bonfire sculpture for the Bonfires Puppet Festival
A street puppet bonfire sculpture for the Bonfires Puppet Festival

Things to Do

Aside from being a mere spectator of the celebration, opt for camping for a single night on the San Juan beach as it serves as the best campsites in Spain. You can quickly take a splurge in the sea in the midnight as that is also supposed to be a way to do away with the evil spirits around you. As a ritual, the people wash their feet and faces thrice, so that their three wishes are granted. So you just wait for your turn and watch a genie suddenly appearing to grant your wishes. Of course, only if you think so.

Continuously munecos and dolls are burnt, so much so that the entire night sky gets covered with thick smoke. While the Colossal-like bonfires take larger shape, San Juan beach gets noisier with music. Originally, the effigies represented Judas Iscariot, but that has become secondary to enjoyment as bonfires made today have no religious relevance.

If you could take some time-out, then visit Puerta de Tierra a hub of so many attractions. Also, witness the fountain in the International Convention Center District. Take a stroll to visit the museums featuring modern art. Museums, art, architecture and festivals will take you close to the Spanish-based culture in San Juan. There you can also experience African culture.

Make sure you reserve the night and bring plenty of drink to spend an adventurous night on 23rd June in San Juan. Carry sweater as it is likely to get little cold there.

Bonfires of Saint John is a magical night when your wish can turn real. In Spain, it is celebrated with bonfires. A kid buns his notebooks after the school year has finished
Bonfires of Saint John is a magical night when your wish can turn real. In Spain, it is celebrated with bonfires. A kid buns his notebooks after the school year has finished

How to Get There?

There are flights to Alicante airport, including Ryanair, Norwegian, British Airways, Easy Jet, Iberia, Cimber Sterling and much more. Bus n V-6 connects the Alicante airport with the city. It leaves from the stop in every 20 minutes. If you are travelling from Madrid or Barcelona to Alicante, then you can even think of boarding a train. The suburban train can also get you from to the city from Elche in half an hour.

You can avail tram services as well. They are quite enjoyable and reasonably priced. The city boasts direct ferry links as well, serving as exist to Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca. Once you have to reach Alicante, take a bus or tram to reach San Juan beach.

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