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The festival of Sant Joan

Six months after Christmas the arrival of the summer solstice is celebrated during the shortest night of the year. The celebrations of Sant Joan are of pagan origin and consist to a greater degree of inherited rituals, practices and customs originating in pre-Christian celebrations. The festival of Sant Joan takes place between June 20th till 24th and is a huge party full of bonfires, fireworks, music and dancing.

The night of Sant Joan, 23 of June, is the shortest of the year in the northern hemisphere and basically means the triumph of light over dark. The basic characteristics of these rituals are fire, water and the sun. Legend has it that the bonfires that burn on this night can cure diseases of the skin and cleanse the body and soul. One can even change a bad year into a good one simply by jumping over the bonfire a minimum of three times.

Sant Joan is celebrated in almost all of Spain, but in some parts it takes on a special meaning.

In Ciutadella (Menorca) people visit from all over Spain (including many television crews) to witness the celebrations.

People take to the streets and party non-stop for 3 to 4 days drinking pomada, an explosive mix of Mahon gin and lemonade, and slapping the back sides of the large black horses with riders that dance in the crowded streets and dart in and out of local doorways. The horses and their riders actually ride through the interiors of the already packed houses so as you can imagine there are often some black eyes and broken bones to deal with in the morning.

As the evenings progress you will also witness large scale battles of people enthusiastically throwing sackfuls of hazelnuts at each other which is meant to be a sign of love. The festival of Sant Joan has to be seen to be believed.