Saint John – ‘The Most Marvellous Night of the Year’ in A Coruña
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Each year people all over the world eagerly await the summer solstice – the shortest night of the year in the height of summer. However nowhere celebrates it quite like A Coruña in north-western Spain, with The Bonfires of Saint John (Hogueras de San Juan) - a dazzling spectacle of light and fire.
Declared to be of National Tourist Interest, this spectacular celebration draws in thousands of visitors from all over the world. The main events take place from the evening of 23rd to 24th June, however the city has a jam-packed programme of concerts, parades, children’s shows and culinary events in the week leading up to the big night.
Throughout the day locals and visitors flock towards the city’s two main beaches, Orzán and Riazor, as well as the various tiny coves and inlets scattered along A Coruña’s sea promenade, trying to get the best view of ‘the most marvellous night of the year’.
When darkness falls, bonfires lining the beaches and the city’s districts begin to set an atmospheric glow in anticipation of the stroke of midnight, when the ‘Meiga Mayor’ – or Queen Witch’ – lights the main bonfire. The Queen Witch is a young woman chosen to represent the city.
From then on, the city is transformed into a stunning spectacle for all, with over one hundred thousand bonfires and various fireworks displays illuminating A Coruña’s skies.
Market stalls are scattered around the area showcasing their fresh fish straight from auction, and with A Coruña being Spain’s biggest fresh fish port, the stalls are a focal point for visitors in search of culinary speciality, sardines.
As well as gastronomic traditions, locals and visitors get involved with the ritual of washing with the ‘magic flowers of Saint John’, which, if followed, is said to make all dreams come true and ward off evil for the remainder of the year. To follow the ritual, a collection of wild flowers and herbs must be left in water overnight, and once they have collected the early morning dew of Saint John’s Feast Day, the aromatic water is used as a face wash.