San Juan bonfires festivities in Alicante is great fun. If you like to party this is a great opportunity. If you live or frequently visit Alicante you will soon discover that the locals love their fiestas, festivities and local heritage .
This post will cover one of the most important annual celebrations in and around the capital Alicante, “Las Hogueras de San Juan “ or The bonfires of Sa Juan. My son Robin stayed in Alicante some years ago. The plan was to study Spanish and he truly improved his language skills. He also had a lot fun for almost 1 weeks street parties in Alicante.
Gather around the fire
Since since time immemorial people have gathered around bonfires for family get togethers or bigger villages feasts. In Alicante ” Hogueras de San Juan” goes on for more than one week. Fire and fireworks constitute a great part of the San Juan celebration. It officially starts on June 20 and lasts until the 29th of June.
The history of the San Juan bonfires festivities
The first official “Nit del Foc” (night of bonfires) was held in 1928. Since then it has only been canceled twice, during the civil War and the coronavirus pandemic. However, the origin of the festival goes far back and is a pagan tradition. In Spain the festivities takes place with the with the arrival of the summer solstice.
The celebration of the summer solstice
Similarly, far back the Alicante farmers celebrated the longest day of the year. They made bonfires for increase the luck around harvesting crops and for destroying evil and get rid of bad energy during the shortest night of the year .
From the countryside to the city
In the 18th century bonfires tradition travelled from the countryside to the city of Alicante. The city people took advantage of the Nit del Foc , the 24th of June to “burn old furniture, drink alcohol and explode gunpowder”. Later and as the festival coincided with the saint of San Juan (June 24) relgious connotacion were added. In the 19th century the partying side of the festivities subdues and social and political criticism as well as protest entered into the festivities.
The piles of furniture started to feature shapes of people and animals. These were precursors of the “ninot” -figures.
“Ninot” at the San Juan bonfires festivities
A “ninot” is an enormous monument made of cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster. These figures are remarkably lifelike and usually depict improper, satirical scenes inspired by current political or public events.
Today in a typical San Juan more than 200 Ninots of all forms and sizes are placed in plaza throughout the city . On the 24th of June these are set on fire and burned.
The more religious part of the celebration focused on parades and flowers arrangements. The pagan part feature fires, fireworks, and firecrackers . Do not miss
- On the night June 24 the monument are burned “the night of the “Cremà”
- The popular “Banyà” (bath) where the population gets soaked by the firefighters that put out the bonfires.
- “Mascletàs” (impressive firecrackers contest that are held in the Plaza de los Luceros
- The beaches are full of people dancing, laughing, singing or just contemplating. The most daring, even jumping over the flames of small local beach bonfires.
In my home country Sweden this kind of celebrations to burn the old would typically take place in April for Walpurgis eve. We try to promote a eco friendly bon fire celebration in my Swedish network GoNatureTrip and GoNatureMarket