We shall light them on the beaches

I smell like a kipper, that’s not a boast, and i’m not launching my own special fragrance, it’s just an after effect of enjoying the Noche de San Juan on Las Vistas beach, here in Los Cristianos, Tenerife. The festival of Saint John is centred on the summer solstice and midsummer day, and across Spain it’s the signal for bonfires on the beaches, through the night.

Jumping the fire

The themes of cleansing and renewal are very strong, the flames of the fire will purify your soul, all you have to do is jump over the fire three times. There are lots of regional variations, many people last night were dropping slips of paper into the fire, these are lists of problems, mistakes and bad habits, all things that the flames will hopefully burn away.

San JuanAs I headed down to the beach, the smell of burning mingled with that of food cooking, and what a pleasant aroma it was. Arriving at the front at 11pm, it was heaving with people, a band was playing live Canarian music, and people of all ages were up and dancing, Canarian potatoes and fish was being served up to anyone who fancied it and the mood was happy and relaxed. There were 4 or 5 huge bonfires spread out along the beach, and many smaller ones scattered all around, all down the sand to the shore.

It annoys me when people in the UK sneer at Tenerife, it’s not perfect, but it’s great for families. Large groups were gathered around the various bonfires, parents with their children happily running about in the sand, and even a few pet dogs scampered in the sand. Most people were drinking, the ever popular clinking carrier bags kept appearing and several of the beach front bars were open, please note UK, flowing alcohol and people having fun, doesn’t have to mean violence.

The sea is another great cleanser, many were stripping down to their cozzies and diving into the waves, emerging to dry off round a bonfire. At midnight, a statue of San Juan was carried out into the sea and splashed liberally with water, candles were lit on the beach and flowers placed into the sea, as the dancing and drinking flowed on until dawn. I left at 2am and there were still thousands of people, getting a little sand between their toes, as San Juan looked on.


And the day after…I went for my beach swim early this afternoon, and it was like nothing had happened on the beach. The promenade was clean and the bins had all been emptied, on the beach there was no debris from the fires, no bottles or glass, not even a stray chicken bone. They had even put up some temporary seating for a forthcoming volleyball tournament. Top marks to Arona council and their team of cleaners.