Bonfires, music, fireworks, flowers, rituals… and the occasional witch and encantation! San Juan is celebrated on the eve of 23rd June and lasts into the early hours of 24th. It marks the beginning of the summer season and is one of the year’s biggest and most eagerly awaited festivals. It has its roots in pagan rituals held around the summer solstice that falls two days earlier.
San Juan celebrations are held in many parts of the world and throughout Spain, especially on the Levantine coast where the tradition runs deep. In Alicante, for example, they celebrate Cremá de Alicante, while on the Atlantic coast, A Coruña has the Noite da queima and across the border in Portugal, Porto holds its Sao Joao Festival.
Similar festivals are held throughout Scandinavia, each rooted in Viking rites: Sakt Hans in Denmark; Jonsok in Norway; Juhannus in Finland; Līgo and Jāņi in Latvia and Ivan Kupala in Russia, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine (7th July).
A popular drink particularly associated with San Juan is a Galician punch called queimada, prepared in a ritual reminiscent of making a magical Druid potion, complete with its own incantation.
It is made in an earthenware pot with orujo brandy, sugar, coffee beans and lemon & orange peel. As the punch is stirred the alcohol is set alight, creating spectacular flames as each serving is poured.