Eve of St John or Noche de San Juan in Tenerife – bonfires and fireworks and San Juanito
St John's Eve and Summer Solstice
St John’s Eve is known in the Spanish-speaking world of Tenerife and the other Canary Islands as Noche de San Juan. It is a very important time for festivities, for bonfires, fireworks and beach parties.
The night of 23 June is one of the biggest fiesta times of the year and in many places it is as big if not bigger than the New Year’s Eve celebrations. It is in keeping too with the Summer Solstice of the Pagan calendar.
It is a Fire Festival that marks the time of the shortest day and the most daylight. There is a very magical and almost surreal feeling to the event as it is celebrated. The festival combines elements of both Pagan and Christian traditions and imagery.
St John's Eve bonfire
San Juan Bautista or John the Baptist
The saint whose fiesta is in honour and celebration of is the Biblical John the Baptist or San Juan Bautista, as he is called in Spanish. So there is the association with the water of baptism as well as the fires of the festival.
There are several places in Tenerife with the name of this saint in their names, such as San Juan de la Rambla and Playa de San Juan.
The day of the 24 June is traditionally St John’s Day, and the 23 is the Eve.
Dancers on the beach
St John's Eve poll
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Noche de San Juan in San Marcos
In San Marcos a procession takes place while the bonfire is burning. The fire is lit and then all the people who have assembled, along with a brass band, make their way down the road of the village until they reach the sea front in the bay itself.
Many cars arrive in the normally quiet village and the car parks are filled with vehicles.
Many of those in the procession carry burning torches. The band plays a selection of rousing tunes and there is often singing too by those in the procession. It is a very energetic and colourful and musical event!
Many people join along the way or watch from the sidelines. Balconies of the apartment blocks that border the road have groups of spectators and others line the road down by the beach.
The beach is covered in people, including family groups. Candles are lit and there is usually a disco too with dance music blaring out over the sea. Many people, especially the countless teenagers, go in the water. At midnight it is a tradition for people to go in the sea because it is believed that bathing at such a time is purifying and cleansing.
There is the idea that all of Noche de San Juan is about getting rid of anything bad. In religious terms the fires can be thought to ward away demons and evil spirits. In some places mainly young men will jump three times over smaller fires.
Fireworks are set off, mainly large Catherine wheels, Roman candles and rockets.
In many places the festivities continue throughout the night and the bars and restaurants by the beach do fantastic trade on this night of the year.
By the morning after the island is shrouded in smoke and the smell of burnt wood and ash.
In San Marcos the 24 June is another day of celebration down in the bay because the statues of San Juanito (Little St John) and the Blessed Virgin are brought out of the chapel by the beach and carried by men in another procession that takes them down to the area where the boats are docked. Here they are taken on board a boat and taken on a cruise around the bay.
Before all this begins there is usually a concert or concerts of live music on a festival stage.
Again a brass band plays as the procession takes San Juanito and the Virgin down to the boats waiting for them.
The bay already has floating lights decorating it and at one point in the ceremonies fireworks are let off with many shooting up over the waters.
The celebrations for San Juan and San Juanito are both some of the most memorable events of the year!
Copyright © 2013 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
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