Many of these old pagan traditions have been handed down and repeated every year. In some regions, if you jump over the bonfire nine times on that evening, it is said that you will be protected from evil spirits. In the Málaga area, three times is sufficient and you will meet the man you’ll marry. Naturally you have to wait until the bonfire has burnt down somewhat before you try to jump over it, otherwise you’ll have worse things to worry about than evil spirits or a forthcoming wedding.
But it’s the line of glowing bonfires that stretches along the beach on that night, that is the most spectacular part of the celebration. In some areas people write their wishes on pieces of paper and burn them; in other parts of Spain they make a huge guy from cloth, sawdust and paper and burn it on the bonfire.
The basic ideas behind these pagan traditions are plain, the herbs and plants are good for your health, fire is a protection against evil spirits and water has a purifying effect.
The reason the Christian church has chosen the Summer solstice as the Feast of St John the Baptist on 24th June, is because John the Baptist was said to be six months older than Jesus. As 25th December was nominated as the birthday of Christ then that made John’s birthday in June. As with many things in the religious calendar, on the eve of San Juan we find a blend of Christian and pagan beliefs.
So, I for one, am looking forward to a warm evening on the beach near where I live, eating sardines and watching other people jumping over the bonfires. I might venture down to the sea and wash my feet; after all who knows?