Tonight, June 23, thousands of people will gather on Riazor and Orzán beaches in La Coruña in Galicia to celebrate La noche de San Juan – St. John’s night. They will be dancing around bonfires, eating sardines, drinking beer and generally letting their hair down in the name of seeing off any witches, evil spirits or bad vibes that might be hanging around. Just for locals? Oh no, everyone is very welcome to this party.
I was there last year and it was a pretty wild night – even though I wasn’t brave enough to jump over any of the fires or drunk enough to run into the sea. But I did eat sardines and drink queimada, the Galician concoction of aguardiente (a lethal spirit made from grapes), coffee beans, herbs, lemon and goodness knows what else. It has to be stirred in a special earthenware pot and ours was prepared by Suso Martínez, who is a fantastic guide and an expert on all things Galician.
At midnight, the bonfires are lit, fireworks are set off and the serious partying starts. Down on the beach, we danced, drank beer, talked to dozens of people and launched lanterns into the night sky. I don’t remember what time I got to bed, only that my clothes stank of woodsmoke the next day.
There are processions, concerts and all sorts of other activities going on in the fortnight leading up to San Juan too and it is a wonderful time to visit the city. I can’t wait to experience it again.