Certain festivals seem to sum up life in Spain with its love for having a good time. La Noche de San Juan is one of these events. In cities and towns everywhere, particularly those close to the sea, the celebration is very important. In Tenerife, we celebrate our own little bit of midsummer madness in an atmosphere of music, fireworks and tradition.
More so, in the north of the island than the south you will find beautiful displays of fruit vegetables and flowers. I’ve not seen these myself and the photo is taken from the internet but easily recognisable as Puerto de la Cruz.
In Los Cristianos, close to where I live, the celebration to welcome the summer is mainly held on the beach. In the early evening, people throng the streets and seafront walkway. No! it’s not to watch Spain beat France at the football (even though it was a great game!). It is to watch the statue of San Juan being carried down to the harbour. Then it is onto the beach where families have spent the day building bonfires. Wherever you look along the coastline, you will see fires burning brightly.
Mythology states that strange occurrences take place on the shortest night of the year.
The people of Tenerife are not averse to a bit of madness or strange occurrences. San Juan is about changes, it is about fire and water. Fire purifies and water rejuvenates, so it is common to see locals jumping over their bonfires. According to tradition, if they jump over three times, they will be cleansed and purified. They write special messages onto pieces of paper and in order for their wish to come true, it must be cast onto the flames. Families and groups of friends have picnics sitting round specially decorated holes in the sand where they have placed candles and flowers to capture the magic of the night.
The smell of smoke permeates the air and there is a feeling of friendship that crosses age, culture and background. The sight of people stripping off and wandering into the water after midnight is a memorable, almost surreal and is supposed to wash away evil spirits.
As dawn breaks in Puerto de la Cruz it is time for the traditional Baño de Cabras when local farmers, bring their flocks of goats down to the fishing port where the animals receive their annual bath. The origins of this tradition are lost in time, it is probable connected to pagan rites of purification but these days the seawater is a good way to remove dirt from the animal’s coats, heal small wounds and amaze the tourists!
Depending where you experience La Noche de San Juan and it needs to be experience at least once, you will find yourself entranced by the spectacle.