Summertime Madness – The Bonfires of Saint John in Spain

The Festival of San Juan

When summer comes around in the region of Alicante, Spain, the hot weather is celebrated with an enormous festival that includes fireworks, music, dancing, feasting and huge burning bonfires. Known as the Festival of San Juan (Saint John), this event dates back to pre-Christian times and it marks the summer solstice – the longest day of the year. It is celebrated in many locations all over Spain, but the festivities in Alicante are the biggest and best.

The Festival of San Juan  takes place between the 20th and the 29th of June every year. The 24th is the night of San Juan, which is when the people burn the huge wooden and paper mache figures that they have created especially for the event. These immense statues are known as fogueras (or hogueras) which means bonfires. They are often caricatures of public figures, such as politicians or celebrities, or depictions of newsworthy events. The burning begins at midnight, with a palm tree firework being launched from Alicante Castle.

While the wooden and paper sculptures burn, there will be drinking, dancing and dining late into the night. The celebrations continue until 29th, with fireworks every evening at Postiguet beach, as well as live entertainment in the city centre and a medieval market.

Bonfire at the Festival of San Juan in Spain
Bonfire at the Festival of Saint John in Spain | photo credit: jlmaral via photopin cc

Fire Jumping Thrills

One of the traditions associated with the Festival of San Juan is that if you jump over the fires, you will cleanse your soul and your body. Also, taking a dip in the sea at midnight will wash away any evil spirits that might be lingering on you and will help you to gain eternal beauty. It is also said that you should write down your hopes, dreams and desires on a piece of paper and throw it into the flames – so that it will come true.

The Festival of San Juan takes place on the longest day of the year, as it allows for more time in the fields to bring in the harvest and less night time hours when evils and curses can attack the town.

Bonfire at the Festival of Saint John in Spain: Paper Mache Figures
Huge wooden and paper mache figures are burnt on the bonfire | photo credit: Contando Estrelas via photopin cc

The Fire Beauty

Also, during the festivities, a queen of the fiesta will be named. She is known as the “Bellea del Foc”, which means the “beauty of the flames”. The winner is chosen in May, after a number of candidates are nominated to a committee in each neighbourhood. The winning “beauties” will have a place of honour at the Entry of the Bands and Committees – wearing elaborate traditional dress.

An Exciting Tourist Spectacle

The celebrations of the bonfires of Saint John in Alicante have been named a Festival of International Tourist Interest. This means that these festivities attract thousands of visitors from all over the world and have become a significant tourist draw in the region.

If you are visit Alicante this June, head to the beach and take part in some of the loud, exciting, fiery and joyous summertime madness of the Festival of San Juan. Make sure you book your hotel early!

About Kelly Dunning


A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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