On this upcoming June 23rd the high flames of bonfires will light up the sky throughout the Basque Country in celebration of the night of San Juan. It is a night full of magic where fire is the main protagonist.
The origin of this pre-Christian holiday is related to the arrival of the summer solstice, also known as the shortest night of the year for the northern hemisphere; the triumph of light over darkness; or just a cyclical change in nature. There are plenty of rituals in the Basque Country that are linked to this change of cycle and they are all connected with fire, water or soil.
The most widespread practice on the eve of San Juan is to build a bonfire and get together with friends to contemplate the fire. Traditionally, fire has a purifying function, which in turn, protects us from the possible evils that may threaten us for the rest of the year. According to Basque tradition, you have to jump over the bonfire three times in order to have a good year. Most neighborhoods and villages of the Basque Country make their own bonfires, and in some localities, like Hernani (Gipuzkoa), Burguete (Navarra) or Laguardia (Álava), the night of San Juan demands special festivities, making them good opportunities and great excuses to come and experience the traditions of the Basque People.