We made it to the OCHO! Hello obscure sports fans, if it's almost a sport then we've got it. Brevity aside this is the day we came for. In deciding for our trip the factors where two-fold. Hogueras de San Juan (Bonfires of St. John) or Encierro (Running Of The Bulls). I had the fortune of having PTO to do both, however, Red did not so we had to choose. In the end, we chose the lesser of the known tourist events, the Hogueras de San Juan.
I woke up that morning and after a breakfast of huevos and jamon went shopping for shorts. I had my swim trunks but I wanted more shorts that were not basketball shorts. Ones that would automatically peg me as American. So we went shopping at our favorite little square just a five-minute walk from our place. I picked up some shorts that were European in their cut and damn comfortable. We also picked up some blankets and other items. After shopping, we went for an afternoon walk through downtown. Just a short one so I could reminisce of the last time we were here for Las Fallas.
After downtown, we went over to Kevin and Susan's to visit and repeat the wave travel of the day before so we could go down the beach for the Hogueras y Ritual Noche de San Juan.
Hogueras de San Juan is a traditional and popular festival celebrated around the world during Midsummer, which takes place on the evening of 23 June, St. John's Eve. It is customary in many cities and towns in Spain; the largest one takes place in Alicante, where it is the most important festival in the city.
The bonfires are particularly popular in many Catalan-speaking areas like Catalonia and the Valencian Community, and for this reason, some Catalan nationalists regard 24 June as the Catalan nation day... even though Catalonia's patron saint is actually St. George.
The festivals of Midsummer's Eve (St. John's Eve among Christians) have roots in ancient celebrations related to the summer solstice. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.
Fire features in many of the celebrations, with people gathering together and creating large bonfires from any kind of wood, such as old furniture, and sharing food and drinks while teens and children jump over the fires. Parties are often organized at beaches, where bonfires are lit and a set of firework displays usually take place. On the Spanish Mediterranean coast, especially in Catalonia and Valencia, special foods such as coca de Sant Joan are also served on this occasion. In Alicante, since 1928, the bonfires of Saint John were developed into elaborate constructions inspired by the Fallas of Valencia (which we were here for last year).
Bonfires are lit, usually around midnight on the beaches. Occasionally, a dummy is placed at the top, representing a witch or the devil. Young and old gather around them and feast. When it is relatively safe to jump over the bonfire, it is done three times (although it could also be nine or any odd number) for good luck at the cry of "meigas fora" (witches off!). After which you go for a swim in the sea to wash away the negative energy.
This year we were the barraca. A barraca is a group of friends who don't take part in all the activities, they only to eat, drink and dance during the festival. There are herbs to gather, costumes to wear, baths to be had. We only ate, drank, danced, burned, jumped and swam this year. Ok so maybe I wasn't a traditional barraquer slacker (an individual from the barraca group), but I didn't follow the letter of the ritual. From what I could tell, neither did anyone else on the beach we were on.
We had food that Kevin BBQ'ed and others brought. We had a pretty kick ass effigy that caught the attention of most of our neighbors. Including ones that had come from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Britain, and of course us Americans. There were fireworks on the beach and big bright SOS flairs that lit up the sea. All in all, it was successful and fun.
The night was long, the bonfire was jumped and the dunk at midnight was good. Once everyone was home (remember the traveling in waves thing) and the gear was put away. Red and I returned to our Airbnb. With the energy of the night, we didn't fall asleep until well after 3 PM.