Bonfires of Saint John, Spain & Portugal from Next Week It's Summer! Wild Ways the Solstice Is Celebrated Around the World (Slideshow)

Next Week It's Summer! Wild Ways the Solstice Is Celebrated Around the World (Slideshow)

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Bonfires of Saint John, Spain & Portugal

On the evening of June 23rd (but often starting in the afternoon), the countries of Spain and Portugal both celebrate a festival known the Bonfires of Saint John (Spanish: “Hogueras de San Juan” / Portuguese: “Festa de São João do Porto”). Traditionally, bonfires are lit to protect against evil spirits that emerge when the sun turns southward again during the solstice. Since both countries have an ample amount of coastline, the celebrations often take place on beaches, and sometimes involve fireworks. Locals feast on pilchards (sardines), boiled potatoes, and maize bread, with queimada (a flaming concoction of orujo — Galician grappa — mixed with sugar, coffee beans, and fruit) as the drink of choice in Spain, and wine in Portugal. Like fire, water is also important to numerous rituals, like putting fennel, ferns, rosemary, St. John’s wort, and other plants into a vessel with water, which is placed outside overnight. The next morning, on St. John’s Day, people use the resulting flower water to wash their faces in a cleansing custom.