FEAST OF ST. JUAN
Every year, the Feast of San Juan is celebrated in different parts of Europe.
But what is this celebration about? Why is it so important? In which cities is it celebrated? What is its origin?
In the Celtic culture, the Druids celebrated the arrival of the solstice (moment of the year when the Sun, in its apparent movement, passes through one of the points of the elliptic farthest from the Equator and when the maximum difference in length between day and night occurs) of summer by lighting large bonfires, seeking the blessing of land, men and livestock.
The Greeks lit purifying bonfires in honor of Apollo: god of the sun and light.
The Romans dedicated to their goddess Minerva festivities with fire as the protagonist.
In Mexico, Aztec warriors performed rituals to worship the sun so that fire would help the earth and men to obtain good harvests.
The Berbers of northern Morocco and Algeria have been lighting bonfires for centuries in village squares and places that need to be purified.
For the Hindu tradition, the summer solstice represents the way of the ancestors. The ashes of the bonfires were kept all year long.
Christians celebrate the night of st. Juan on June 23 in honor of the birth of St. John the Baptist.
It was originally an adaptation of the pagan cult to the teachings of the Bible based on the great bonfire that Zechariah lit after the birth of his son Juan.
Saint Juan is the Saint celebrated by the Church on June 24: the day of his birth (he is the only saint whose birth is celebrated).
He is the most celebrated Saint in Europe and one of the most important Saints for Christians since he is considered the forerunner of Jesus Christ.
It is said that during the summer solstice, these people lit large bonfires to seek the blessing of their lands and ensure that they bore enough fruit to feed themselves. In addition, through the fire they asked the divinity for a prosperous future for couples in love and fertility for women.
The Feast of St. Juan is originally linked to the arrival of the summer solstice (June 21), of pagan origin that was later Christianized.
After the Christianization of this festival, the night of June 23rd to 24th becomes a holy night, sacred and of purification, without abandoning its magical and pagan aura. It is celebrated as the shortest and most magical night of the year.
Every year on the night of June 23rd to 24th and 24th, festivities are held in many corners of Spain in honor of St. Juan. Numerous beliefs and rites are linked to the day and to the Saint, reminiscent of ancient cults that were celebrated at the arrival of the summer solstice.
Symbols of this celebration:
- Fire: is the purifying element that rids us of bad luck and everything we want to leave behind.
- Water is the second symbol of San Juan, it is said that tonight all waters have healing virtues, so in many places it is customary to bathe in the sea or river.
- Herbs are the third element, it is believed that plants multiply their healing properties on this night.
The evening of the Night of San Juan 2021 is the moment when thousands of people welcome the summer on the shortest night of the year.
To attract good luck and put aside bad omens without having to resort to good luck charms, each city decides to celebrate the night of San Juan with its own idiosyncrasies.
Rituals for good luck
On Midsummer’s Eve, it’s not just bonfires that are lit. The long tradition that drags the festival has made it come with a high load of spirituality and above all, rituals that seek to face the new stage of the year with the favor of luck. Some of the most famous are these:
A couple jumps over a bonfire during the night of San Juan in Hungary | EFE
- Jumping over the bonfire: this is one of the most widespread good luck rituals in Spain although it has nuances depending on the area in which it is carried out. In Galicia it is considered necessary to jump the bonfire nine times over the flames for good luck, while in the Alicante and Valencia areas it is only necessary to jump over the flames seven times.
- Jumping the waves: another tradition is to jump the waves at midnight, although the number may vary depending on the region. It is said that this is the perfect time to make a wish and have it fulfilled.
- Taking a bath on one’s back: another belief is that anyone who takes a bath in the sea on his or her back will be protected throughout the year.
Washing one’s face: a very common ritual in areas where there is no beach is to wash one’s face after midnight. It is said to be lucky if you do it without looking in the mirror afterwards.
The Feast of St. Juan is celebrated in different parts of Europe, in Spain it is a holiday in the Valencian Community and Catalonia, although it is celebrated in other places as well. Countries like Norway, Denmark, Estonia also celebrate this day.