AKA Abraham Bacoln

Festival de San Juan
June 23, 2007, 7:08 pm
Filed under: Spain

So, this is the information that’s been related to me through conversations with my host family and professors. If any of it is wrong, well, we’ll worry about that later.

One of the single most important holidays here, in Andalusia but especially in Málaga, is the Festival de San Juan. It takes place on the night of the 23rd-24th of June, the 24th being the day for St. John (the Baptist) on the Catholic calendar. However, everyone here has freely admitted that it’s far far older than that and is basically the pagan celebration for the summer solstice. The nickname here is equivalent to “the shortest of the beach bonfire parties” because the night that it happens is close to the shortest night of the year (you know, the other side of the summer solstice being the longest day of the year). I understand that the actual solstice this year was a few days ago but that doesn’t really matter, apparently.

Okay! So! Festival de San Juan! It’s celebrated in this fashion all up and down the Mediterranean coast of Spain but apparently Málaga is the best city for the parties, not unlike New Orleans with regards to Mardi Gras on the Gulf Coast of the US. The party unfortunately is not that big, ha ha.

There are a few important things to do in this festival. One is to eat sardines that have been wood-fire-roasted on little spears. There are several guys set up doing the roasting – the fires themselves are built in sand-filled boats. I never did hear why this part is important, but … doesn’t matter! Roasted sardines!

I didn’t eat any! I don’t like fish in the first place! Hooray!

Second is the midnight water ritual. At midnight you must go to the sea and jump in. Barring this, which most people do because it’s a little cold, you must get your feet wet and use your hands to splash sea water on your face. This keeps you beautiful during the coming year. I sense a direct correlation between children, their willingness to jump all the way in, their youthful beauty, and the converse to all of that. Anyway, feet, hands, face. All must get wet with the sea water at midnight.

The third important part are the juas. A ‘jua’ is an effigy made of old clothing, paper, and whatever else is necessary. The name is a derivative of Juan, from San Juan. Anyway, you make juas in the form of someone you dislike, or someone that displeases you, though it’s all done in good fun. After you’ve had your dip in the sea you return to your pre-assembled bonfire, light it, and throw the jua on there. This rids you of all the bad feelings, bad luck, and bad things in general during the past year.

Finally, to prove their strength and bravery the men (and eventually women and children) will jump over the bonfire at the first available time. As soon as it’s not five feet of flames you’ll find people jumping over. I can’t remember if it’s simply a feat of machismo or if it’s supposed to bring luck as well.

I think that damn near everyone in Málaga was at the beach tonight. It was fascinating, to say the least. Oh, yes, and there are fireworks as well. Almost forgot the fireworks.

And now I’m home, at 2:00 AM, writing this up while almost everyone else is still at the beach drinking and partying. I was just a little too tired to stay out all night.

That’s it! You missed it! Maybe next year …

4 Comments so far
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very cool traditions!

Comment by liz

One of these years, Senor Grinch is going to show up while the entire town is emptied and carry out The Great Festival de San Juan Caper.

Comment by Dan

Glad you were there!!

next year? I’m in!!

Comment by Kyla

Damn it man! Eat the fish!

Comment by DoubleT

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