Midsummer Festival

© La Voz de Galicia


24th June is a date marked in flame red on A Coruña’s calendar of events. The Bonfires of Saint John (Hogueras de San Juan), declared to be of National Tourist Interest, is an absolute must for residents and visitors to this Atlantic city, surrounded by the sea and tucked away in the autonomous community of Galicia, in north-western Spain. Each year this major celebration draws thousands of visitors from around the world, eager not to miss the opportunity to experience at first hand a unique night of spectacular celebrations.

Although the main events take place on the night from 23rd to 24th June, during the week leading up to the big day, the city starts getting into the spirit of things with a packed programme of concerts, parades, children’s shows, culinary events and activities for little ones…without losing sight of the night of the 23rd, when the ancient rites of the summer solstice are performed.

As soon as day breaks, the entire city waits for the sun to set with baited breath on what is set to be the shortest yet most thrilling night of the year. It’s time to celebrate the summer solstice, turning the city into a dazzling spectacle of light and fire, set against the backdrop of the glistening Atlantic Ocean.

Right from the early hours, the streets are a hive of activity. The markets stalls displaying the fresh fish brought straight from auction (A Coruña is Spain’s biggest fresh fish port) are the focal point for those in search of the day’s culinary speciality: sardines. Watching the fishmongers and customers as they go about their daily business is a sight not to be missed.

As the day goes on a human tidal wave starts to roll towards the inlet that separates Orzán and Riazor, the city’s two main beaches, located right in the centre. Although locals and visitors alike tend to gather on these two stretches of sand, all the tiny coves and inlets dotted along A Coruña’s sea promenade, one of the longest and most attractive in Europe, are filled with people eager to enjoy “the most marvellous night of the year” .

As soon as darkness falls, the bonfires that line the beaches and are scattered throughout the cities districts start to gleam, the perfect warm up for the festive atmosphere and the official start of the celebrations to commemorate the Festivity of Saint John. On the stroke of midnight, the ‘Meiga Mayor’ - or Queen Witch -, the young lady chosen to represent the city, lights the main bonfire. From then on the entire city is transformed into a thrilling spectacle of light; a fabulous fire that nobody wishes to extinguish. More than a hundred thousand bonfires on the beaches! Firework displays, music, laughter, joy and magic…this is a unique spectacle, and one of those experiences that should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list! The partying and celebrations continue until well into the small hours.

In addition to the gastronomic rituals, there is also another tradition in A Coruña: washing yourself with the magic flowers of Saint John. If you follow this ritual, all your dreams will come true and you will be safe from evil for the rest of the year. This tradition is simple: all you have to do is to leave a bunch of wild flowers and herbs (sage, ferns, hollyhocks, marsh mallows, oregano, verbenas and wild roses) in water overnight, allowing them to gather the early morning dew of Saint John’s Feast Day and wash your face in this aromatic water in the morning.



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