The summer solstice is approaching again, a magical night occurring from June 20 to 23 every year, when the Sun is farthest from the equator, and the days begin to shorten. This magical moment is celebrated since ancient times, with numerous European pagan traditions that created purification rituals around the fire, an element with magical properties that guaranteed good omens. Ready to enjoy an unforgettable summer solstice? Rent a car for San Juan and celebrate with your friends.
Enjoy the summer solstice
The pagan traditions of the summer solstice have been celebrated in several Mediterranean and Nordic countries for centuries. This night was considered magical, it opened the doors to a mystical world , and mortals became close to their gods. Since ancient times, pagans lit bonfires to feed the Sun to help it regain its strength; in Europe there were celebrations around the fire and its purification powers. Rituals such as jumping through the flames augured a good harvest or success in love.
Some of these customs have lasted over time and have given way to a mystical celebration during the Night of San Juan, which is celebrated on June 24: we still jump over the bonfire by the sea or in the town square to start a new cycle full of new illusions and free of encumbrances.
Best places to celebrate San Juan
This festivity full of enduring magic has lasted throughout the centuries, although its celebration has gone from a pagan origin to become a Christian tradition. To this day, it continues to be celebrated in many places in Europe. Get ready to learn where to celebrate San Juan this summer in Spain and Portugal:
Where to celebrate San Juan in Spain
Spain is one of the places that year after year have preserved the tradition of the summer solstice, with the San Juan festival. There are several cities holding this celebration but, without a doubt, Alicante and Galicia are two of the places where you can find more magic in your next San Juan trip:
In Alicante the arrival of summer is celebrated in style with its famous "San Juan Bonfires". The city is filled with music, gunpowder and color, and thousands come from Alicante (and some tourists too!) gather the courage to worship the fire to celebrate the arrival of summer. The holiday is celebrated on the 24th. The people gather in the beach to light fires and dance around them, enjoy the fireworks and take 3 jumps in the sea. For some, it is the first swim of the season, in which they muster their courage to fulfill their wishes.
The so-called "barracas" or popular fairs and their bonfires fill the Alicante city center. The bonfires are satirical figures made of cardboard and wood that adorn the streets until 00:00 on San Juan's night, when they burn in the "cremà" to remind us of the transience of life. In Alicante, the celebration continues after the night of San Juan. From June 25 until the end of the month the Postiguet beach hosts a fireworks contest; you can also visit many medieval markets. If you want to enjoy the most pagan holiday of the year with your friends, without a doubt, Alicante is a sure bet.
Another place full of magic to celebrate the night of San Juan in Spain is Galicia, where, as the saying goes, "meigas, haberlas haylas" (I don't believe in witches; but they do exist). In this "Terra Meiga" (Land of Witches), the rites, traditions and beliefs of magic have been transmitted orally, from generation to generation, over the centuries. The legend says that on June 23 the witches or "lareilas" perform their spells and prepare to fly under the moonlight or celebrate the Sosltice in the forest, in rivers and caves.
On the "Noite Meiga" (Witches’ Night), the Galicians gather in front of the fire to celebrate San Juan, jumping 7 times over the bonfire embers to the cry of "Bruxas Fóra" to scare away the evil spirits. It is a long night celebrating with friends and family, always close to the bonfire, singing, dancing and eating together. Some of the celebrations you attend to experience the magic of the "Noite Meiga" are the Feast of the poetic Aquelarre in A Coriña or the San Juan de Sarria in Lugo.
Where to celebrate San Juan in Portugal:
San Juan is the patron saint of the city of Porto; in his honor a very colorful party is organized to celebrate St. John's Day and the arrival of summer. The tripeiros or inhabitants of the city brighten the streets with verses, carnations, jokes and hot air balloons. Bonfires are also jumped over in the streets and at night people gather to admire a superb fireworks show on the Douro.
This is how Oporto, year after year, receives the night of San Juan, as a ritual in which the fairs and music fill the city with joy, a holiday that begins with the sunset. The night of June 23 to 24 starts with the grilled sardines, accompanied by the city’s best wine, typical of Porto. After drinking the "cimbalino", the equivalent of an espresso coffee, the Portuguese go down to the Don Luis bridge, on the banks of the Douro, to see the fireworks, a whole spectacle of color and unforgettable pyrotechnics next to the river and to jump the bonfires.
After midnight, the city celebrates life to the rhythm of music and dance popular songs in the so-called "festarolas", thousands of festivals spread around the city that invite you to dance until the sun rises, to celebrate life, the joy and the arrival of summer, now with our energy purified after having jumped the bonfires.
Ready to enjoy an unforgettable San Juan? Rent a car and celebrate the summer with a getaway on the night of San Juan with your people.