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Hogueras de San Juan :: Alicante, Spain

March 25, 2010 by  
Category: Festivals

Each year around June 24th several towns in Spain celebrate the popular festival known as the Bonfires of Saint John(Hogueras de San Juan). Although celebrated throughout the country in many cities, Alicante considers it the most important festival in the city and sets up the largest celebration. During the festival there are a variety of celebrations held, some are repeated daily and others are one time events. Originally started in 1928 by Jose Maria Py because he felt Alicante needed an important festival, he combined the Valencian tradition known as the “fallas” (see our fallas article here) with the bonfires to create this unique celebration. Although the “Bonfires”, also called Fogueres or Hogueras, are very similar to the Valencian Fallas they are not made by “fallero” artists but rather local painters and sculptures.

The festivities usually run from June 19th through June 24th, with each morning kicked off by the 8am wakeup call when neighbors are awakened with a great deal of noise created by the entire city, this is known as the “despertà”. Each day at 2pm the racket kicks up again with the “mascletà” which is a display that combines fireworks and firecrackers. There are also bullfights during the festival which are held at the local stadium. Every night night, from 11pm through 6am there are street parties all over the city with people dancing a drinking all night long. The main event on June 19th aside from the daily fun is la “plantà” in which the monuments, street ninots and all the other décor is set up in the streets and prepared for their eventual burning. On June 21st there is the “Desfile de entrada de bandas”(Entrance Parade of Bands) which is a parade made up of bands that play music as the walk through the city. Another two parades are held on June 22nd, the “Desfile de entrega de premios”(Prize Giving Parade) and the “Ofrenda de flores a la Virgen del Remedio”(Flower Offering Parade to the Virgin of Remedy). During all three parades people wear traditional Alicante clothing and during the Flower Offering Parade the women often wear a “mantilla”, a scarf worn over the head and shoulders.

The festivities culminate on June 24th at 12pm when “La Palmera”(The Palm), a cascade of fireworks, starts. It is soon followed by “La Cremà”(The Burning) which is when all the Bonfires are burned. The final event of the festival is the popular “Banyà” where the local firefighters but out the blazes. The Bonfires are paid for by the Bonfire Commission together with local businesses and residents, each district of the city has its own Bonfires representing them in the artistic competition that is part of the festival. Personally, this festival was always the highlight of my summer visits to Alicante when my grandparents lived there.

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