June 24th is the Patron Saint’s day of John the Baptist or San Juan. It is widely celebrated all over the world, but in the Balearics and particularly in areas around San Juan near Alicante on the mainland, the night of San Juan (La Noche de San Juan) is celebrated, with bonfires and fireworks at midnight to see in the 24th. As it occurs just a few days after the Summer Solstice (the longest day on June 21st), it is also used as a celebration of the start of the summer.
Traditionally, and this still happens in some places, people jump over the bonfires, or run over hot coals, as a way of purifying the body and soul. Traditions in other places include throwing old things into the bonfire to start anew, for example throwing in shoes signifies a new start in life.
In Figueretas last night, the fiesta (party) took place on the beach, starting at 10.00 with an 80s disco. 80s music can be a bit hit and miss – the good, the bad and the ugly – and that’s exactly what we got.
Some fabulous Human League, Billy Idol, Frankie Goes to Hollywood sandwiched in between the not so great Huey Lewis and the News and the aptly named (in my opinion), Dire Straits. It was refreshing however to hear something different from bland, non-descript dance music, which is all too prevalent in Ibiza.
Just to set the scene, it’s nearly midnight. It’s 20+ degrees warm – a beautiful evening. There are quite a lot of people on the beach, but not too many that you can’t move – enough for a good atmosphere. People are dancing on the sand to the DJ. Some people are swimming or paddling in the sea. There’s a bar, selling reasonably priced draught beer, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks and pinchos (kebabs). Dalt Vila (the old town of Ibiza) is illuminated in the background across the bay. The setting is perfect.
So there I am, dancing in the sea on my own to ‘Dancing with Myself’ (how appropriate) at midnight, when the firework display kicks off, a little further down the beach. We’re treated to a fantastic display, lasting for what must have been 10-15 minutes. Then, just beyond where the fireworks were launched from, the bonfire made from a stack of wooden pallets is lit.
The immediate area is cordoned off – they do have some notion of health and safety here! It takes a while for it to get going, almost at one point looking like it might not. After a while, the fire takes hold, and several minutes later, the fire is so hot that everyone is forced to move back. Ade’s iPhone is nearly on meltdown! Some minutes later and the fire brigade (bomberos) are spraying water onto the fire to tame it somewhat.
It’s a great bonfire, not that we need to huddle around it for warmth! Some of the kids near the fire are throwing firecrackers (kids are the same all over the world).
Meanwhile, back up the beach, the music has switched to monotonous dance music, but there’s a crowd dancing. We retire to Father Jacks, where we know we can get a nice cold beer in a glass easily (it was a nightmare trying to get served at the fiesta bar). All in all, a great party. San Juan would be proud!
More about La Noche de San Juan: http://www.donquijote.org/culture/spain/society/holidays/sanjuan.asp
Words by ClaireB, videos by Ade Harris
The Fireworks 5m56sec
The fire pt 1 1m10sec
The fire pt 2 1m04sec
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