Some more cultural information from the Basque Country courtesy of EITb:
San Juan in the Basque Country: The most widespread festivity
San Juan festivity, the most widespread festivity, will be celebrated on June 24 with many different bonfires.
Besides its deep purifying character the bonfire of San Juan’s eve bears relation to the bonfires lighted to keep off non-desired visits: the evil spirits that, using the privileges this holy night offered, might be a threat.
In almost all Europe, the summer solstice comes accompanied with ancestral rituals. Many Basque villages – Agurain, Hernani, Eibar, La Guardia, Leioa, Muskiz, Segura, Tolosa, …- celebrate their patron festivities in honour of San Juan (24th June), and all of them are still reminiscent of traditions with an origin lost in history.
San Juan’s Eve: Protecting and purifying fire
Regardless of the patron they chose, all the villages in the Basque Country gain a magic atmosphere on San Juan’s eve, when they light the bonfires, which take their roots from ancestral traditions related to the summer solstice. Obviously, this way of getting into a new natural cycle, leaving definitely aside the winter and welcoming the summer, is not a Basque peculiarity. There is a similar atmosphere in many Spanish places and European countries, whatever its cultural roots.
Nevertheless, the rituals related to the shortest night of the year have survived more intensely in some cultures, and the Basque is one of them. According to the Celtic tradition, the dead could get in touch with the living on this night. Besides its deep purifying character – reinforced in some cases by rituals related to water- the bonfire of San Juan’s eve bears relation to the bonfires lighted to keep off non-desired visits: the evil spirits that, using the privileges this holy night offered, might be a threat. Rites that are represented in very peculiar dances in some places such as the ones mentioned in this proposal.
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