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La Noche de San Juan welcomes Spanish summertime
La Noche de San Juan welcomes Spanish summertime Copyright NACHO DOCE/REUTERS

In pictures: Spain celebrates the festival of San Juan to welcome the summer

By Tim Gallagher
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From fire jumping to beach parties, this festival is fun for every Spanish summer reveller.


La Noche de San Juan takes place 23 -24 June in Spain, a night for fun and frivolity to start the summer.

The festivities include bonfires and parties on Spanish beaches, while in other places locals take part in traditional parades.

What is La Noche de San Juan?

A parade in urban Spain for La Noche de San JuanJOSE JORDAN/AFP
Locals in Spain enjoying La Noche de San JuanJAIME REINA/AFP

Despite the association with a Christian Saint, just like Halloween and Christmas La Noche de San Juan is rooted in pagan superstition; with 23 June thought to be a night when the pagan gods are closest to humans.

Originally, fires were lit on Spanish beaches to 'ward off evil spirits and purify locals'. 

Today they are often part of beach parties with vendors selling drinks and food, as well as DJs and other music.

The celebrations are particularly large along the coastline and draw massive crowds to Spanish coastal towns.

What happens on La Noche de San Juan?

Fire jumping is a time honoured tradition on La Noche de San JuanNACHO DOCE/REUTERS
A beach party on La Noche de San JuanNACHO DOCE/REUTERS

As the bonfires are lit on beaches all over Spain, locals begin to engage in the time-honoured traditions such as jumping over the bonfires, most commonly three times. Traditionally this was to ‘burn away’ problems, strengthen the sun for summer, or simply bring good luck.

In some places in Spain bonfire attendees write down their hopes for the coming year and burn them in the fire before running into the sea for a purifying dip. Some people also wash their hands and feet to purify themselves, with the contrast between fire and water being central to the festival. 

The celebration of La Noche de San Juan happens all over Spain but is especially big in Barcelona where massive firework displays are put on for tourists and residents alike.

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