The traditional birth of St. John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24. That happens to be right around Midsummer, the Summer Solstice (shortest night) in the northern hemisphere and Winter Solstice (longest night) in the southern hemisphere. Many cultures have blended Midsummer/Midwinter and Saint John birth celebrations.
Midsummer celebrations combine pagan and Christian traditions. Traditional celebrations use medicinal plants, water and fires to ward off evil spirits and bring good things to life.
We wonder why there is this association with evil spirits in Midsummer. Summer is a great time to be out at night. It probably has more to do with people getting busy on a hot summer night, than some external evil. We’re so prudish sometimes (or at least we pretend to be).
Bonfires of St. John’s Eve
Many Latin cities celebrate the Feast of St. John with bonfire parties on St. John’s Eve June 23.
The bonfires are basically a beach party. You make a bonfire, eat and drink with friends and family, and jump over the fires. Some traditions jump over the fires three times or nine times, and then jump into water nearby.
There is a big festival in Alicante on the Spanish Mediterranean. The bonfires are popular throughout Catalan lands (around Barcelona and the border with France). The Falles of Valencia is a fire festival in Valencia, Spain.
Porto, Portugal celebrates the Festa de São João do Porto.
Fest Junina & Bonfires of São João
Brazil celebrates the Festa Junina. The “Bonfires of São João” is a great Forro in the Dark song with vocals by David Byrne (Talking Heads). It’s a version of the classica
Fiesta de San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Fiesta de San Juan used to be celebrated in Puerto Rico too. Nowadays, one of the big hotels in San Juan may set a bonfire, but the tradition has faded.