San Juan: How to Celebrate the Most Magical Night of the Year in Spain

The night of San Juan is one of the most emblematic and vibrant celebrations in Spain, a country where traditions and culture intertwine to offer unforgettable experiences. At Tour Travel & More, we are proud to share with you the secrets and magic of this festivity. Join us on this journey to discover how the shortest and most magical night of the year is experienced in different regions of Spain. Check out our private tours here!

Origins and Meaning of the Night of San Juan

The Noche de San Juan, celebrated on 23 June, has its roots in ancient pagan rites celebrating the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. With the advent of Christianity, the holiday became associated with St John the Baptist, whose birth is celebrated on 24 June. However, many of the pagan traditions have been retained, creating a unique celebration that combines the mystical with the religious.

Fire and water are the two central elements of this festival. Bonfires, lit on beaches, squares and mountains, symbolise purification and renewal. Jumping over these bonfires is a tradition that is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. On the other hand, bathing in the sea at midnight also has a purifying meaning, taking advantage of the waters to cleanse the body and soul.

The Bonfires of Alicante: A Monumental Festival

In the city of Alicante, the celebration of San Juan reaches a monumental splendour with “Las Hogueras de San Juan”. This festival, declared to be of International Tourist Interest, transforms the city into an open-air museum, where gigantic papier-mâché sculptures, known as “ninots”, are erected in the streets. These works of art, which can be up to 20 metres high, are the result of months of work by local artists.

The highlight of the festival is the “Cremà”, the burning of the ninots, which takes place at midnight on 24 June. The flames light up the sky and create an impressive spectacle, while music, fireworks and the joy of the participants fill the atmosphere. The Alicante Bonfires not only celebrate San Juan, but also pay tribute to the creativity and community spirit of the city.

The Magic of the Beaches on the Costa Brava

The Costa Brava, with its stunning beaches and coves, offers an idyllic setting for celebrating Midsummer’s Eve. In towns such as Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar and Cadaqués, the tradition of lighting bonfires on the beach is particularly intense. Residents and visitors gather around the fire to share food, drink and songs, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and celebration.

One of the most anticipated activities is the night swim. At midnight, hundreds of people go into the sea to take the “San Juan bath”. According to tradition, this bath not only purifies, but also grants wishes. In addition, on some beaches, paper lanterns are thrown into the sky, creating a visual spectacle that adds a touch of magic to the night.

Ritual and Tradition in Galicia

In Galicia, the Noche de San Juan, known as “Noite de San Xoán”, is celebrated with a special fervour. The region, known for its rich mythology and traditions, adds unique elements to this festivity. Bonfires, or “cacharelas”, are lit on beaches and in squares, and Galicians jump over them to purify themselves and attract good luck.

One of Galicia’s most distinctive rituals is the gathering of San Juan herbs, which includes plants such as rosemary, St. John’s wort and verbena. These herbs are left in water overnight and used to wash the face the next morning, a gesture that symbolises purification and protection against evil. In addition, in some localities “queimadas” are made, an alcoholic drink prepared with aguardiente, sugar and coffee, which is lit and served while incantations are recited to ward off evil spirits.

Noche de San Juan is a celebration that encapsulates the essence of Spain: a blend of history, culture, community and a touch of magic. Whether it’s the monumental bonfires of Alicante, the enchanting beaches of the Costa Brava or the mystical rituals of Galicia, each region brings its own flavour to this special holiday. At Tour Travel & More, we invite you to discover and experience this magical night, where fire and water become the protagonists of an unforgettable experience. Come and celebrate with us the Night of San Juan, a festival that, beyond its flames and rituals, unites people in a celebration of life, hope and renewal.

Posted in Europe, Spain.