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Saturday, June 24, 2006

June's high days and magic nights

By a trick of the calendar - and a highly movable feast - the penultimate week of June sees a plethora of fiestas and folksy events taking place in Tenerife which combine all the hectic colour and frenetic energy of the Corpus Christi celebrations in La Orotava (which this year falls late) with all the magic and mystery of the San Juan rituals (which coincide with the solstice).

Wednesday was the Solstice, Thursday was the Day of the Carpets, last night was Bonfire night. Bonfire night, in Spain and the Canary Islands is on June 23rd. It's a night of fire, water, spells and rituals in which thousands of people burn their desires and dance around the fires that are lit in every town and village.

Last night, here in the valley, the air was filled with the scent of the purifying fire of the Hogueras de San Juan (Bonfires of Saint John). The actual origins of the celebrations of the shortest night of the year, the 23rd of June, eve of the festivity of San Juan, are lost in the remote past. This pagan festival was integrated into the catholic calendar because of its proximity to the festivity of Juan Bautista (John the Baptist), which is celebrated on the 24th of June.

People jump acrobatically over the bonfires. Jumping the fire is supposed to help you avoid aches and pains, but surely, if you are ABLE to jump the fire, you are probably therefore fit enough not to suffer aches and pains in the first place. :) The Noche de San Juan has created all kinds of fantastic legends, which are best taken with a pinch of salt.

Puerto de la Cruz has one of the island's largest celebrations of this fiesta. They also have the traditional Baño de las cabras (bathing of goats) today at the old fishing port. Yes, I am sure that sea water is great at cleaning off the odd parasite and helping to heal any small cuts and grazes the animals might have, which is one of the other, original motives for this ritual. "If you've never seen a goat swim, now's your chance, and if you never knew how stubborn they can be in the face of a dousing, now's the time to find out!"

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