Alicante celebrates the arrival of summer with the Bonfires of San Juan. In an atmosphere of music, colour, fireworks and extravagance, thousands of people throng the streets to experience this fiesta which pays tribute to fire.
To celebrate the arrival of summer, the people of Alicante would traditionally flock to the countryside on 23 June for a festive dinner: they feasted on typical products, and at midnight they would light bonfires and dance around them, set off fireworks and go swimming in the sea. This custom endured over the years, and in 1928 the fiestas of the Bonfires of San Juan were formally constituted. For several days, Alicante celebrates this great homage to fire, a relation of the “Fallas” in Valencia, where the main characters are genuine works of impermanent art: the bonfires and the enormous cardboard and wooden figures which go up in flames on the night of San Juan.
The queen of the fiesta, known as the “Beauty of Fire”, is chosen in May from among the candidates presented by a committee in each neighbourhood. The festivities officially begin on 20 June with the building of enormous bonfires with their tongue-in-cheek cardboard figures which fill the streets of Alicante with wit and good humour. That day the “barracas” or large tents are also installed in the fairground area where the dancing takes place, and where people can enjoy the typical figs and “cocas” (a kind of pastry with tuna, onions and pine nuts). On 21 June the parade of musical groups and the various bonfire committees takes place, with their respective “beauties” and the maids of honour dressed in traditional costumes. The following day there is a floral offering to the city’s patron saint, the Virgen del Remedio; and on 23 June there is the international folkloric dance parade, a colourful procession of dance troupes from all around the world. In addition, every day at two in the afternoon from 20 to 24 June, there are firework displays in the Luceros square: the ear-splitting “mascletás”, which should be seen wearing ear-plugs because of the racket of the firecrackers and rockets. And finally at midnight on 24 June is the “cremá” (burning), the high point of the fiestas. After a spectacular white palm tree of fireworks, the bonfires all over the city are set alight and blaze away amid much merriment and dancing and singing, while fire-fighters shower the merrymakers with water in what is known as the “banyá”.
But the fiesta is not over yet. From 25 to 29 June there is a fireworks competition on the el Postiguet beach, and the historic centre of the town comes alive with a medieval market and a range of shows.