Jumping a beach bonfire during the Night of San Juan

The Night of San Juan – Parties, Feasts and Loads of Magic

Some think that it’s rooted in Christianity (celebrated six months before the birth of Jesus) and others believe it’s the product of the pagan celebration of the arrival of the summer solstice. We’re talking about the celebration of San Juan, the evening of the 23rd to 24th of June, a late night affair filled with equal parts enthusiasm, superstition and partying. It is celebrated in countries around the world, but is most deeply rooted in Spain.

Tradition dictates to light bonfires and then jump over the flames to grant one protection. Depending on your Communidad, you get nine or seven jumps. You must also deliver a braid of colored thread to the beloved; wash your face at midnight and avoid looking in the mirror; collect herbs to leave in the sea and draw pictures that try and predict the future. And this is just to name a few.   For sure, the Night of San Juan is considered magical and every city and society has its own rituals; and always on the seashore.

People sit around bonfires during San Juan

Gathering on the beach during the Night of San Juan, Valencia

Traditions aside, for some this date is more about fun and entertainment. The tourist beaches are filled with young people who have recently completed their course of study and look forward to la verbena (outdoor parties) or the mobile discotheques organized in their city or town. It is customary to prepare different sandwiches, snacks, and small bites to graze on…and to show up armed with coolers, chairs and firewood for a ‘pre-game’ on the sand, before heading off to the DJ stage, jumping the waves as they deem appropriate along the way.

San Juan In Valencia.

In the capital of the Turia, 23 public transport services will be available to transport partygoers back and forth: EMT Valencia will connect the city with the Paseo Marítimo and Metro Valencia will expand its metro and tram service to the beach. It’s anticipated that the beaches hosting the most visitors will be Malvarrosa, Patacona and Arenas, which should be filled with revelers starting in the afternoon. Families with small children or who are looking for something more quiet should head to the less touristy beaches further away from the capital. There you will find fewer crowds and a more laid back atmosphere. The City Council will distribute between 30 and 40 tons of firewood at 7 pm in Malvarrosa and Cabañal, so it’s recommended to arrive then to secure a place in the sand.  Note that fires in the area of the Dehesa del Saler are prohibited as it’s a protected natural area, but all other city beaches will take part.

Verbenas and DJ’s.  Want to hang with the party crowd?  In addition to the events organized by the biggest Fallas, city residents and tourists can head to the Valencia Beach Festival in the Veles e Vents building (priority entrance is free with printed invitation from the web).

Hottest Ticket for Dinner in Valencia?  The Central Market will create a special ‘pop-up’ restaurant to host a small number of people who will dine on the very roof of the building, enjoying magnificent views.  Chef Victor Rodrigo of Samsha, will be in charge of the menu, and Pau Castle (restaurant Amayal) will pair the dinner with cocktails. Brown Forman will also be mixing cocktails, and Gandia Blasco and SOM team up to provide furnishings and decorations.

Other locals that will be open, even without a special menú, are Gabbana Beach, La Pepica, La Marcelina, L’Estimat, Las Carabelas, Belandret, Destino 56, El Coso, Brassa de Mar, L’Obrador, and El Mastíl.


Celebrating San Juan with paella cooking on the beach

Getting Away for San Juan.

For foodies with a knack for travel, Lens Gourmand has selected some coastal restaurants further afield that mark the celebration with exclusive menus for June 24th. Your task is simple- choose a destination and enjoy.

Restaurant Duuo de Sabadel will kick things off with an assortment of appetizers to include a Bloody Mary with celery foam, crispy sphere of anchovy cream with cheese, “Hammer” of foie gras with two chocolates and anchovy focaccia. A first course of two dishes includes cocktail prawns with guacamole and pineapple and monkfish cheeks with romesco sauce. Second course includes rabbit cannelloni with aioli with five peppers, and goat shoulder with potatoes “antiguas”. For dessert, Coca de Sant Joan. Wine for the evening will be ‘bio’ red, white and rose by Navardiared from Rioja; and cava Brut Nature “Heretat Padruell”.

Balneario de Archena in Murcia is serving a full menu consisting prawn salad with ham and tomato vinaigrette; roasted peppers and tuna belly and salmon marinated with dill; baked eggplant with pine nuts; scrambled eggs with mushrooms and prawns; Sirloin steak grilled with potatoes and peppers, and various desserts and wines.

Sunset on the beach during San Juan Night, Valencia Spain

Sunset on the beach during San Juan Night, Valencia Spain

Garaia Jatetxea Restaurant in Mondragon: to eat on June 24? (does this mean it’s available only after midnight?). Shrimp salad with honey vinaigrette; Slow cooked egg with potatoes and mushrooms; bacalao with sofrito; duck confit with red fruit or Iberian pork with apple sauce and rosemary sauce. Dessert will consist of a typical cake and to drink, young Rioja and cider.

Mandarina Club in Peñíscola serves its special dinner on June 23. For the appetizer, cripsy Morcilla baldana and sea bass tartare with lime vinaigrette. Main courses include Almond gazpacho with marinated cazón (shark); grilled octopus with potato foam, garlic infused oil and paprika; “All i pebre” monkfish; and Iberian pork with soft cream mustard; For dessert, a sweet chocolate coulant and sweet artichoke with artisan peach ice cream and ginger. For wine choose between Dorondón Chardonnay (DO Cariñena), Aldeyo Garnacha (DO Cariñena) or AT Roca Brut Reserva cava (Agusti Torello, DO Penedés).

Bonfire art!

Playing with fire…a Spanish art form during the Night of San Juan

Asador Tinto in La Rioja begins with starters of an assortment of Iberian sausages, toast with tomato and olive oil, mushrooms and asparagus stuffed with shrimp and prawn salad. Second course is a choice of grilled turbot with potatoes, grilled tenderloin of sea bass with caramelized onions, grilled bacalao with Nájera peppers, roasted shoulder of lamb with salad, grilled entrecote with potatoes and fried padrón peppers, pressed Iberian pork garnished with mushrooms, Iberian pork with porcini sauce. For dessert enjoy canutillos filled with cream of arroz de leche, or rice house-made torrijas with ice cream. The meal also includes bread, water and Rioja Crianza.

Hotel Mas Lazuli in Empordà welcomes with a cocktail soft-shelled crab and salad of tabbouleh, Sumac mayonnaise and micro flower buds). Next is a Bouillabaisse San Pedro and crispy truffled sepia (cuttlefish), followed by a “Symphony of Duck” (thigh confit, pastry of confit, seared duck breast, and livers with San Juan pears and red wine). Ending on a sweet note is a cold soup of pears with cripsy pailleté, chocolate pop-rocks, cream, rhubarb and gelée of violets, the passion fruit souflee with coconut ice cream, or the Coca de San Juan (brioche and candied fruit). Wines include Ales Negres “Terra Remote”, Nomes “Perelada” Mas Lazuli rose wine, and “La Sapinière” Pearl cava.








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