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The Bonfires Fiesta of Saint John in Alicante

What would you think if you were walking down a street toward the beach in Alicante during June in the middle of night and you noticed that people on the beach were jumping over bonfires and then diving into the sea. Some people might say that the asylum had open its doors but you would be wrong for it is the fiesta of St John's Bonfires or locally known as Las Hogueras de San Juan. This fiesta is a celebration for the summer solstice which is 21st June but locally is celebrated on 23rd June coinciding with St John's day which is when most of Europe celebrates the day.

The Bonfires Fiesta of Saint John in Alicante from In The Sun Holidays 1

The Bonfires Fiesta of Saint John in Alicante from In The Sun Holidays 2

During the year prior to this people build immense papier maché statues called hogueras or fogueres, which means bonfires. These statues are usually caricatures of politicians or celebrities, or satirical illustrations of newsworthy events and are left in full view on the side of the streets from June 20 onwards. It is on the 24th of June that these papier mache statues are set alight at midnight and burned to the ground.

The best place to view the end of the fiesta is the famous Santa Barbara castle. Near to it in the Benacantil district is where a huge firework display is set off. People say that it is so big that you can see the display along most of the Costa Blanca. After this they set the statues alight one by one signifying the end of winter.

The festival has been granted the status of a Festival of International Tourist Interest and as a result it attracts holidaymaker's from all over the world. Along with the festival the celebration has its own fiesta queen, known as the Bellea del Foc (beauty of the fire). The selection of this person is a huge responsibility and carries a lot of prestige with it.

The history of this festival was to originally celebrate the longest day which allowed more time to work and shorter nights. This was back in the time of witch craft, so shorter nights meant less time for evil curses to attack you. There was such a great mess made that the council outlawed letting off fireworks or the setting of bonfires in the streets on pain of a rather large fine. It was in 1881 that the council forgot to re-instate the order and the village people took advantage. This is when it all began. They built the satirical statues, held dances, open air concerts and fireworks displays. The San Juan fiesta was not officially recognised until 1928 when the ban was lifted and the fun could be had by all legally.

The Bonfires Fiesta of Saint John in Alicante from In The Sun Holidays 3

The Bonfires Fiesta of Saint John in Alicante from In The Sun Holidays 4

In the beginning we talked about leaping over bonfires, diving into the sea and asylums. Although some people say you don't have to be crazy to do this I think it helps. Legend has it that if you write down your wish on a piece of paper and put it in the fire the flames will make your wish come true. The locals say that the wishes come true so it must be a fact. Well I don't know where you will be on the 24th of June, perhaps on your Costa Blanca Holidays? I know where I will be with paper and pen in hand and they say that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out into the noon day sun.

The Bonfires Fiesta of Saint John in Alicante from In The Sun Holidays 5

Staying in Villas in Alicante, will allow you to explore these bonfires and learn all about the fiesta's of this fascinating place.