The Bonfires of Saint John (Spanish: Hogueras de San Juan, Catalan: Fogueres de Sant Joan, Galician: Noite de San Xoán) is a popular festival celebrated around Midsummer, (also known as St. John’s Day) (23 June) throughout many cities and towns in Spain; the largest one takes place in Alicante, where it is considered the most important festival in the city. The bonfires are particularly popular in Galicia and many Catalan-speaking areas like Catalonia and the Valencian Community, and for this reason some Catalan nationalists regard 24 June as the Catalan nation day.
For this festival, people gather together and create large bonfires from any kind of wood, such as old furniture, and share hot chocolate while teens and children jump over the fires.
Before 1928, the bonfires of Saint John had been celebrated in Alicante as it had been elsewhere in Europe: by burning old pieces of furniture on the night of Saint John on June 24. The Bonfires festival was originated in 1928. Jose María Py, the founder of the festival, felt that Alicante needs an important fiesta and come up with an idea to combine bonfires with a Valencian tradition known as the “falles”. The festival ultimately became the most important cultural event in Alicantinian society.
- The Bonfires start with the ‘Set Up’ (la plantà) when monuments, street ninots and archways to the “barraques” are set up in the streets. A pie of tuna (coca amb tonyina) and early figs (bacores) are eaten at night.
- The despertà occur at 08:00 – Neighbours are awakened with a great deal of noise in all the districts of the city.
- The mascletà takes place at 14:00. It is a combination of fireworks and a very long string of firecrackers (bangers).
- At night, from 23:00 to 06:00 there are street parties in all the districts of the city. People dance and drink all night at the “racós” (sing. racó) and the “barraques” (sing. barraca).
- The Street Band Parade (Desfile de entrada de bandas) occurs at 19:00.
- At 11:30, the Prize Giving Parade (Desfile de entrega de premios) takes place
- At 19:00, the Flower Offering Parade to the Remedy’s Virgin (Ofrenda de flores a la Virgen del Remedio) takes place.
In the three parades, people wear the traditional garments from Alicante, and, in the Flower Offering, women wear mantilla and they have a bunch of flowers.
- At 21:00, the International Folklore Parade (Desfile folklórico internacional) takes place.
24 June :
- At 00:00, the Palm (firework) (La Palmera), occurs. This is a magnificent cascade of fireworks, and it is followed by the Burning (La Cremà), which is the culmination of the festival.
Before the main events, in the beginning of June, there are the Ninot and Children’s Ninot Exhibition (Exposición del Ninot y del Ninot infantil), the Paella Contest (Certamen de Paellas), the Tribute to Past Foguerers and Barraquers (La ofrenda a foguerers y barraquers fallecidos), the Opening Ceremony (El Pregón), the Ninot Parade (La Cabalgata del Ninot), and the Street Parade of Ninots competition (La plantà de los Ninots de career).
After 24 June, there is the Firework Display Competition (Concurso de Castillos de Fuegos Artificiales) and the String of Firecrackers Display (Concurso de tracas) in Postiguet Beach. There are also sports events and a Medieval Street Market.
The Bonfires commissions host a number of other events during the rest of the year. In autumn, there is a musical and dancing competition known as the Artistic Competition (Concurso artístico). In December, there is the Christmas Carol Competition (Concurso de villancicos). In May, there is the Beauty of the Fire Contest (Festival de elección de la Bellea del Foc), which is the most important event outside the festive period, followed by the Beauty of the Fire Proclamation (Proclamación de la Bellea del Foc). During the year, there are the Presentations of the Beauties in all the districts of Alicante.