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San Juan fiesta, Ibiza style

Fireworks, bonfires, music, markets and fun

It's the fiesta of San Juan next week. We celebrate St John the Baptist's day on 24th June with, like so many Christian festivals, a mix of religious and pagan rituals. As San Juan coincides with the summer solstice, the end of spring and the start of summer, there's a fair bit of paganism involved with this fiesta.

Summer is like a rebirth, a time to draw a line under the old year and start afresh after a 'cleansing' by fire. All over Spain bonfires are lit, fireworks go off, and in places like Alicante intricate papier mache images are incinerated in symbolic acts.

Here in Ibiza the main focus of attention is firmly on the village of San Juan where centuries old traditions still take place every year. The eve of the saint's day, the 23rd June, is the starting point for all the action when, on the stroke of midnight, when nine 9 (a mystical number and the square root of 81) bonfires are lit and the gathered crowd take turns to jump over them.

Prior to that there's a craft market on from nine in the morning, a live band – White Rabbit – playing from 22.30 and another island tradition dating back centuries takes place at half past midnight, Flower Power, a rose tinted vestige of Ibiza's free wheelin' hippy past with music from the epoch.

Wednesday is religious day with a mass at 12:00, folk dancing at 13:00 and lots of stuff for kids; foam party, parrot, and magic shows, entertainment and so on from 17:00 until the big event of the day at 22:00, the macaroon competition. Don't ask me, for all I know it could be throwing them, rolling them down a hill, or the most you can eat in 3 hours, it's a macaroon competition.

Oh, there's a band on at 22:30 – Projecte Mut – and fireworks afterwards as long as the prevailing weather conditions don't make it too dangerous as just a few years ago there was an enormous fire which engulfed acres of tinder dry pine forest.

Going? Here's my tip, get there early to get a parking spot and don't wear those pyjamas you've got that say 'keep away from fire!'


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