Monday, June 24, 2013

You're Going to Puerto Rico?

"You're going to Puerto Rico?" asks San Geraldo excitedly as we sit enjoying our coffees at Cafeteria Manila Saturday morning.

"Huh?" says Richard in response.

"No, I explained, "Richard said 'Fiesta de San Juan.' It's a holiday. Not San Juan, Puerto Rico."

NOON. THE HOLIDAY BEGINS.
10 PM. THE NIGHT-TIME PARTIES GETTING IN GEAR.
(CLICK THE ABOVE TWO TO SEE THE PARTY GROW.)
THE COOKOUTS GET GOING.

Día (or Noche or Fiesta) de San Juan is a time for parties. It's a festival of pagan origin centered around summer solstice. It's known for large bonfires, which are supposed to give more power to the sun. In Christian Spain, there was a separation between the pre-Christian summer solstice celebration and the later-designated Dia de San Juan that followed a few days after. But the rituals remain pretty much the same.


The reason Richard was so excited was that he had the day off and was spending it on the beach with family and friends. He's got a three-year-old, so I think his San Juan nights are over for a while. He very kindly invited us to join them in the afternoon, but we never made it there. Many people spend the entire day and evening. Some arrive as the sun is setting and have cookouts on the beach. Bonfires are built (they were banned in Fuengirola this year, but they were built anyway on an apparently smaller scale). At midnight, I've been told, you jump over the flames three times for good luck and people here then jump in the sea (because we have one). Maybe a bow to Saint John the Baptist, although no one I spoke with thought there was any connection.

THE LARGEST FIRE I SAW HERE IN FUENGIROAL, BUT I DIDN'T WALK THE ENTIRE BEACH.
THIS ONE EVEN HAD A PLATFORM TO MAKE IT EASIER TO CLEAR THE FLAMES.

The city of Alicante (on the east coast; called Costa Blanca... we're on Costa del Sol) is famous for huge parties and gigantic bonfires. I saw news coverage and couldn't believe the size of the fires. The dirt and pollution must be awful. Here, some people slept on the beach. Further down the beach this morning, I'm told, a few people were hauled in by the police for I don't know what. Our beach is much more sedate than the beaches as you get closer to the marina. People here had been very responsible, bagging their trash before leaving. Clean-up crews were on the scene by 8 a.m. and, by 10, you'd never know it had recently been the site of a pagan ritual.

GETTING READY FOR A NORMAL DAY AT THE BEACH.

I went for a walk after dinner and came home before midnight — feeling extremely old and boring (I really need to "Slushify" my flavor-saver  — click if you don't know what I'm talking about). I then didn't realize the time and missed by three minutes the fire-jumping and water-dipping. I walked out on the terrace and saw a bunch of people wrapping themselves in towels and robes and warming themselves by the fires. Maybe next year I'll take that midnight dip. (Not likely.) But I do like to be in España.


13 comments:

  1. Sounds very interesting. Is the water cold?

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    1. Knoxxy:
      I love the question. I'm a wimp when it comes to a cold dip. I've actually been in the water already this year, so it can't be all that bad. Warmer than the Pacific in Southern California but a hell of a lot cooler than Southern Florida's summertime bath water.

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  2. Hi Mitch:
    Funny how these traditions spilled over into Latin America. In Cuba they don't have the bonfires but instead, they make a very accurate and large papier-maché likeness of the saint and then set fire to it. Don't ask me the significance, but the kids in particular love it. Then it is followed by "voladores" which is a cheap version of fireworks...they just fly up in the air exploding and making a horrendous noise.
    I wish I could have been there to watch those beach bonfires.

    saludos,
    raulito

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    Replies
    1. Raul, that sounds like it's similar to the New Year's Eve activities in Spain (and other Hispanic countries?) that Mitch described-- with the burning of the año viejo effigies. Lots of bonfires to celebrate life!

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    2. Raulito and Judeet (Judito?):
      On the news from Alicante last night, they showed effigies being burned, but I didn't know what they were effigies of -- and I didn't think I wanted to know! They also do some brief noise-only fireworks. Here, there was the sound a firecracker or three at midnight and that was it.

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  3. Wow, it sounds like a wild time there on the beaches. I hope they don't shoot off fireworks like the 4th of July. I'm dreading all the noise.

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    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      Just a few firecrackers last night. That was enough noise for the cats. I can understand your 4th of July dread. I love seeing beautiful fireworks, but hate the sporadic (and unsafe) do-it-yourselfers.

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  4. I'm stuck on the image of jumping over the fire 3 times... maybe you run for the sea after that to put the fire out.

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    1. Sharon:
      Probably quicker to just drop in the sand and roll. (That's what I've always done when I've set myself on fire on the beach.)

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  5. There's something so engaging about a fire on the beach. The smell of fire and salty air just stirs my imagination.

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    1. Stephen:
      We've got those "fire boats" at the restaurants along the beach all the time with sardines and other fish smoking away. The smoke is just enough to, as you say, stir the imagination, without overwhelming the air.

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  6. I swear...every time I come to visit your blog, someone is always celebrating something! It must be invigorating or tiring, depending how you look at it.

    Bing's family is that way with weddings. They are ALL DAY affairs. And no one gets to leave until we all dance to "We Are Family" and each family gets to take a turn dancing in the middle. Bing, Liv and I have done this so many times that we are old hands at it now. But, if I had to do it daily.....I would be a total party pooper.

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    1. Maria:
      I've learned that in Spain people will find any reason (excuse) for a celebration. We've apparently got some really major stuff coming up in July. Can't wait to experience it all for the first time and to share it with you.

      "We Are Family"??? I would die. Anyway, my extended family would need a different song... something like: "My Kids Are Smarter, Better-Looking, More Successful Than Your Kids." (Family only goes so far.)

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