San Juan bonfires festivities

San Juan bonfire festivities in Alicante

San Juan bonfires festivities in Alicante is great fun. If you like to party this is a great opportunity. If you live or frequently visit Alicante you will soon discover that the locals love their fiestas, festivities and local heritage .

This post will cover one of the most important annual celebrations in and around the capital Alicante, “Las Hogueras de San Juan “ or The bonfires of Sa Juan. My son Robin stayed in Alicante some years ago. The plan was to study Spanish and he truly improved his language skills. He also had a lot fun for almost 1 weeks street parties in Alicante.

Gather around the fire

Since since time immemorial people have gathered around bonfires for family get togethers or bigger villages feasts. In Alicante ” Hogueras de San Juan” goes on for more than one week. Fire and fireworks constitute a great part of the San Juan celebration. It officially starts on June 20 and lasts until the 29th of June. 

The history of the San Juan bonfires festivities

The first official “Nit del Foc” (night of bonfires) was held in 1928. Since then it has only been canceled twice, during the civil War and the coronavirus pandemic. However, the origin of the festival goes far back and is a pagan tradition.  In Spain the festivities takes place with the with the arrival of the summer solstice. 

The celebration of the summer solstice


The reverence of the summer solstice is also a tradition that goes far back and is shared by European countries.

The Celts celebrated the Alban Heurin, a festivity in which bonfires were lit to welcome the good weather, to ask the Sun not to leave the sky and to ward off bad omens and attract the fertility of the Earth. In many parts of Europe there is a long pagan traditions to burn objects that are old in order to open up for the new to come 

Similarly, far back the Alicante farmers celebrated the longest day of the year. They made bonfires for increase the luck around harvesting crops and for destroying evil and get rid of bad energy during the shortest night of the year . 

From the countryside to the city

In the 18th century bonfires tradition travelled from the countryside to the city of Alicante. The city people took advantage of the Nit del Foc , the 24th of June to “burn old furniture, drink alcohol and explode gunpowder”. Later and as the  festival coincided with the saint of San Juan (June 24) relgious connotacion were added. In the 19th century the partying side of the festivities subdues and social and political criticism as well as protest entered into the festivities. 

The piles of furniture started to feature shapes of people and animals.  These were precursors of the “ninot” -figures.

“Ninot” at the San Juan bonfires festivities

A “ninot” is an enormous monument made of  cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster. These figures are remarkably lifelike and usually depict improper, satirical scenes inspired by current political or public events.

Today in a typical San Juan more than 200 Ninots of all forms and sizes are placed in plaza throughout the city . On the 24th of June these are set on fire and burned. 

The more religious part of the celebration focused on parades and flowers arrangements. The pagan part feature fires, fireworks, and firecrackers . Do not miss

  • On the night June 24 the monument are burned “the night of the “Cremà”
  • The popular “Banyà” (bath) where the population gets soaked by the firefighters that put out the bonfires. 
  •  “Mascletàs” (impressive firecrackers contest that are held in the Plaza de los Luceros 
  • The beaches are full of people dancing, laughing, singing or just contemplating. The most daring, even jumping over the flames of small local beach bonfires. 
San Juan bonfires festivities- Hogueras de San Juan

In my home country Sweden this kind of celebrations to burn the old would typically take place in April for Walpurgis eve. We try to promote a eco friendly bon fire celebration in my Swedish network GoNatureTrip and GoNatureMarket

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