I couldn’t quite take in the fact that I had lived her for twenty years and hadn’t taken in the full significance and fun of this festival until last year. That was possibly because it seemed such a spontaneous and friendly festival. Of course I read it all afterwards. In many places in Spain it is a very organized festival (Alicante area for example), even here in the Northern towns the local councils organize music and entertainment, but here in the South the celebrations are “amateur”, and all the more magical for it.
The familiar attempt was made by the Church to Christianize the celebration, naming it for St John the Baptist, but very much at heart it remains Pagan, a celebration of Summer, a washing away and discarding of the unwanted and unloved. Personally, it is Fall which makes me feel that way, but I can go along with this one very happily, living in this climate, Fall doesn’t seem quite the same anyway.
I suppose some organization took place, because a huge bonfire had been built at the end of the beach in Las Galletas, and properly roped off for security, though I don’t remember seeing either police or Protección Civil anywhere around. It was lit on the stroke of midnight.
That would have been just after the hardy ones amongst the crowd (not including me) had done the ritual cleansing by venturing into the waves. It isn’t the going in which requires the courage, it’s the coming out into the chill night air. Even the hottest days here are followed by cool nights. The inside temperatures, with walls retaining the sun’s warmth can mount up and become claggy, but outside the night breeze is always soothing.
Although, last year, after I “discovered” this festival I was determined to organize friends to “do it right” and barbeque and all, somehow it escaped me, and we picniced instead. We also didn’t have the tambones. My fault again, Geert had them there ready, but Draman said no, and he was the musician in the group, so I went along with his decision, and then everyone was asking “Where are the drums?” !!! I should have known better. Draman hadn’t been before so how was he to know?
It would have been so cool to jump over the fire the way people were doing! Their own, small fires, that is, not the huge bonfire! This is also symbolic of new beginnings and cleansing, not to mention confronting your own fears. Next year I am determined to do it differently. Goodness knows who will still be here then, but this time last year I had decided that Noche de San Juan would mark my departure. I was wrong. The intervening time has been fruitful, happy and rewarding. So this year I will not be so rash. What I will say, however, is that it will mark my reassessment of my situation – if I am still here.