Saint John is a night full of tradition and superstitions. Although it has a Christian name, its origins go back in time to the pagan celebration of the summer solstice – in the northern hemisphere – on the night of June 21, although due to its Christianization is celebrated on June 23 .
In the chronicles of the Spanish conquerors there is evidence that the aboriginal Canaries celebrated this feast:
“In June they made large bonfires on the highest mountains in a sign of rejoicing for a day appointed, but it is unknown why. When the call was over, they jumped and danced on the ashes. ”
“They counted the year for months, the month for moons, the day for soles, when the sowing that was at the end of June had ended, they had great parties for nine continuous days.”
SEDEÑO, S. XVIII
In the Canary Islands, as in many other places in Spain, bonfires are lit that night, and in Lanzarote the fires of different bonfires illuminate the night of the island. There are bonfires of all sizes, from the huge ones that take days or weeks to mount -with the effort of the neighbors in a nearby open space- or those that are mount by the town councils. There are more modest and private ones, but most people take advantage of the bonfires to roast sardines , Millet chops and corn, share a dinner with family and friends around the fire and enjoy the tradition and ritual of a magical night.
If you want to celebrate Saint John’s Eve in Spain you can’t forget some of the traditions and rituals that accompany this very special night:
Jump the bonfire. This is perhaps the most popular ritual. You simply have to jump the bonfire when the flames are no longer very high, an odd number of times, usually between three and nine. It symbolizes the purification when passing through the fire.
Water. Although fire is an important element tonight, water is not less important. It is a tradition to bathe in the sea at midnight to ensure health.
Herbs of Sain John. It is also tradition to leave a bowl with water and a mixture of aromatic plants such as: rosemary, mallow, mint, lavender, … in the light of the moon. And the next morning wash your face when you wake up with that water to clean up all the evils. Some people make a bundle with these herbs and then let it dry to burn it the next year on the next night of Saint John.
Wishes. It is also tradition to write on a paper something that you want to get rid of, something you do not want in your life and burn it so that the fire away from you.
Potatoes. My grandmother told me that if I wanted to know how I was going to go financially until the next Saint John I had to take three potatoes and peel one of them completely, another peeled only in half and the third left unpeeled. Before going to sleep I had to throw them, without looking, under the bed and when I woke up in the morning I had to reach out and take the first one I found, also without looking. If I took out the peeled potato I was going to be without money. If I took out the one that was peeled only halfway, the money would not be missing, but it would not be enough, and if I took out the one unpeeled is that I would have plenty of money.
A special mention in the celebrations of this magical night has the town of Haría, that celebrates Saint John’s Eve on special way since it is the patron of the town. The night begins with the burning of a large bonfire crowned by Facundo, a human-sized doll dressed in men’s clothing, which is caught by the “Diabletes” during their Fire Dance while the audience cheers. They are followed by a castle of fireworks, a popular asadero and the Verbena to finish the party.
These are just some of the things that are done in this magical night, there are many more and I hope to be able to tell you about them on another occasion, but remember that if that night you look at the water and you see your reflection in it you can breathe easy because you will see the next Saint John.