“You’re going to Puerto Rico?” asks San Geraldo excitedly as we sit enjoying our coffees at Cafeteria Manila Saturday morning.
“Huh?” says Richard in response.
“No, I explained, “Richard said ‘Fiesta de San Juan.’ It’s a holiday. Not San Juan, Puerto Rico.”
|NOON. THE HOLIDAY BEGINS.|
|10 PM. THE NIGHT-TIME PARTIES GETTING IN GEAR.
(CLICK THE ABOVE TWO TO SEE THE PARTY GROW.)
|THE COOKOUTS GET GOING.|
Día (or Noche or Fiesta) de San Juan is a time for parties. It’s a festival of pagan origin centered around summer solstice. It’s known for large bonfires, which are supposed to give more power to the sun. In Christian Spain, there was a separation between the pre-Christian summer solstice celebration and the later-designated Dia de San Juan that followed a few days after. But the rituals remain pretty much the same.
The reason Richard was so excited was that he had the day off and was spending it on the beach with family and friends. He’s got a three-year-old, so I think his San Juan nights are over for a while. He very kindly invited us to join them in the afternoon, but we never made it there. Many people spend the entire day and evening. Some arrive as the sun is setting and have cookouts on the beach. Bonfires are built (they were banned in Fuengirola this year, but they were built anyway on an apparently smaller scale). At midnight, I’ve been told, you jump over the flames three times for good luck and people here then jump in the sea (because we have one). Maybe a bow to Saint John the Baptist, although no one I spoke with thought there was any connection.
|THE LARGEST FIRE I SAW HERE IN FUENGIROAL, BUT I DIDN’T WALK THE ENTIRE BEACH.
THIS ONE EVEN HAD A PLATFORM TO MAKE IT EASIER TO CLEAR THE FLAMES.
The city of Alicante (on the east coast; called Costa Blanca… we’re on Costa del Sol) is famous for huge parties and gigantic bonfires. I saw news coverage and couldn’t believe the size of the fires. The dirt and pollution must be awful. Here, some people slept on the beach. Further down the beach this morning, I’m told, a few people were hauled in by the police for I don’t know what. Our beach is much more sedate than the beaches as you get closer to the marina. People here had been very responsible, bagging their trash before leaving. Clean-up crews were on the scene by 8 a.m. and, by 10, you’d never know it had recently been the site of a pagan ritual.
|GETTING READY FOR A NORMAL DAY AT THE BEACH.|
I went for a walk after dinner and came home before midnight — feeling extremely old and boring (I really need to “Slushify” my flavor-saver — click if you don’t know what I’m talking about). I then didn’t realize the time and missed by three minutes the fire-jumping and water-dipping. I walked out on the terrace and saw a bunch of people wrapping themselves in towels and robes and warming themselves by the fires. Maybe next year I’ll take that midnight dip. (Not likely.) But I do like to be in España.