The Night Of San Juan – La Noche de San Juan
So what exactly is la Noche de San Juan? In short, it can be described as the traditional welcoming of summer seen along every beach in coastal Spain on the night of the 23rd of June.
This welcoming of summer involves a little of everything you would expect from summertime in Spain, but amplified.
In Spain, people are said to live outdoors, so at the start of summer there is a lot of excitement. Everyone is ready to have fun, be with friends and family, and celebrate with food, drinks, and bonfires.
Expect the unexpected, no matter where you are celebrating along the coast, it will be a special experience, but overall it is the people you are with that will define your night. Head to San Juan with friends, family, or join a party of beach-goers.
A couple of things to be expected are packed beaches, excitement in the air, music, and definitely bonfires. The bonfires you’ll see are symbolic; some say that the fires are meant to be purifiers and protectors, providing the only lighting needed during the night. They are also said to represent the heat that fills Spanish summers. Another thing to look out for are the lanterns that are released floating into the sky.
The arrival of the summer solstice at midnight is a very special moment as San Juan begins. This is the releasing of wishes, or juras, into the flames of the bonfires. You’ll see people with pieces of paper, scratching down their wishes and all that they hope to release with the arrival of the new season. Words or sentences are written down, then the pages are burned, disintegrating quickly and symbolizing a cleansing, purification and liberation from the past, and a willingness to look forward to the coming summer, for a new cycle of sun and warmth
Next, crowds run together to the sea to swim, imagining their wishes coming true. Historically, it was prohibited to swim before the 23rd of June, when “swimming weather” was said to start, so this would be the true first swim of summer for everyone.
If you are on a smaller, non-central beach, locals sometimes organize their own fiestas and beach barbecues. This is when it is more necessary to bring food and drinks because there aren’t stands nearby. It is also a good idea to think of bringing wood for bonfires, music, and again a pen and paper for writing wishes.
Why you should celebrate la Noche de San Juan
There’s nothing like seeing hundreds of people running toward the sea to have a midnight swim together in the Mediterranean. Participating in this is something you need to do at least once in your lifetime.
A night of barbecues on the beach, bonfires, floating lanterns, and writing down their wishes and releasing them is something truly unique to Spain, and it is the perfect opportunity to experience a typical Spanish tradition. And what better occasion to attend a beach party than on a night dedicated to welcoming our favourite season.
Where to celebrate la Noche de San Juan
Places to celebrate la Noche de San Juan are vast and any town along the coast will be hosting a party. On this night you’ll definitely notice that there are more people around and that they are migrating in packs to beaches with the necessities for an evening of fun. Follow the crowds and you’ll find the celebrations.