Summer Solstice in Alicante celebrated by Las Hogueras de San Juan Fiesta
One of the most revered fiestas in Spain, particularly in Alicante, is the celebration of the Summer Solstice. Observing the longest day of the year, this spectacular event, Las Hogueras de San Juan (the bonfires of St John) is one of the most exciting and colourful fiestas of the year. Celebrating fire, the event draws thousands of visitors to the city as carefully crafted figures made of wood and cardboard are displayed in the streets. These effigies are often witty depictions of the theme relative to that particular year. Typically occurring on the 20th or 21st of June, the solstice festivities span out over a total of 9 days before and after this astronomical event, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. This year however, because of the Covid 19 pandemic, it has been postponed and is scheduled to be celebrated from 2nd to 6th September.
History of the Fiesta
Summer solstice festivities historically began with people travelling to the coast on June 23rd, gathering for a special dinner with celebrations culminating in the lighting of bonfires, around which they would dance. The fires were a symbol of protection for locals against evil earth roaming spirits as the sun descended southwards. Fireworks were set off and a dip in the sea rounded off the celebrations. It was in 1928 that the festivities were expanded in Alicante and the official Las Hogueras de San Juan became a local fiesta which spans over 9 days of celebrations.
How the festival is celebrated
Whether living in or visiting the city of Alicante, early risers can enjoy music throughout the streets from 8 am typically from 19th June. This is the day when the carefully crafted, colourful figures of wood and cardboard are displayed in a procession throughout the city. The music continues every day of the festival, through to 6 am, with just just 2 hours per day which are quiet. Fireworks and firecrackers known as ‘mascletá’ are set off every day of the festival at 2 pm as sound and light prevail over the city. Not for the faint hearted!
Travelling to the Las Hogueras de San Juan Fiesta
Accessing Alicante city from the Orihuela Costa, a mere 40-minute drive, means you can be selective about the days or hours of the festival that appeal to you. Take a taxi or travel by bus with local bus company
Costa Azul who run a regular service along the coast, including stops at Cabo Roig, La Zenia and Playa Flamenca. Afterwards, you can simply head home for your 40 winks, in peace and quiet. Make a day of it, for the main event. Coach tour companies such as David’s Coachtrips and Rosa Tours offer a guided journey to the city with a drop off close to the port, where the burning of the larger effigies takes place. Learn some history as you travel and get inside information into the places to go, to get the best out of your fiesta experience.
Tradition prevails on the 21st and 22nd June, when three parades involve locals wearing garlands of flowers. Mantillas are worn by local women at the Flower Offering Parade as they carry bunches of colourful blooms intended as offerings for the Virgin de Remedio.
The highlight of the fiesta is usually on the night of 24th June, when thousands of people flock to the city. Stroll through the streets, discovering the incredible figures of all sizes and colour, listening to the music filling the air with festivity. Enjoy food such as ‘cocas’ (pine nuts, tuna and onion, enclosed in a type of pastry) while drinking and dancing with the locals in the large festival tents. Watch troupes of dancers from all corners of the world take part in the International Folklore Parade.
Burning of Fires (La Crema)
As the sun sets, watch a stunning firework display, shaped like a palm tree, erupt from Castillo de Santa Bárbara, the castle overlooking the picturesque Puerto de Alicante. Stand in awe as the bonfires, which have been built around the incredible satirical effigies are set alight as the ‘crema’ unfolds. Observe the firemen standing close by to keep the fires under control. Don’t be surprised however, if you feel yourself being cooled down as those firemen playfully shower the unsuspecting crowd with water, in what they call ‘banya’. Join in with the crowds gleefully cheering as the night sky is lit up by the flames licking around the colourful wooden figures, growing into a burning symbolism of colour and light.
International Fireworks Competition
Fireworks continue each night from 25th to 29th June, when there is an international fireworks competition at midnight. This happens on Alicante’s Cocó Beach.
In the historic quarter of the city a medieval market is also set up from 25th to 29th June, with further entertainment keeping the old town alive.