Sant Joan Festivities in Altea 2019
St. John's eve (UK), Sant Joan Festival (Spain), Sankt Hans Aften (Scandinavia) is mostly celebrated around the world by having a large bonfire after sunset on the eve of June 23rd.
The Feast of Saint John closely coincides with the June solstice, also referred to as Midsummer in the Northern hemisphere.
In Spain the summer solstice is tied to the feast of Saint John the Baptist who was said to be born on June 24th. In most countries midsummers eve is celebrated when the sun sets on the eve of 23rd of June.
In Altea they have a very unique way of celebrating the Festival of San Juan. They still have a pagan ritual of the Solstice of summer and the fertility of land dating probably back to 1617: l'Arbret plant.
On Sunday morning of June 23, fifty young people will cut a large poplar tree on the banks of the Algar river. It will be moved to the parking lot of the Faculty of fine arts and at 18:30h about 100 young men start carrying it on their shoulders to transfer it to the square of the Church, at the top of Altea. They will be accompanied by music while walking several streets: Calle Benidorm, La Nucia, coastal del Matxos, Calvary, Alcoy, then head on to Sant Miguel, the street that leads up to the Church.
During their walk you will hear them cry «aigua i vi!» and people will shower them with buckets of water from their balconies to make it more bearable for the young men. The young men also make plenty of stops to have a large sip of water or wine from jugs offered to them by the spectators. As the young men start getting too hot and perhaps a bit intoxicated, their shirts may come off, and get hung on the tree as decoration.
When they arrive at the Church square, the young men will be exhausted, their clothes will be frayed. The tree will be planted at about 21:30h after the sun has set. The tree, almost as tall as the steeple of the Church, will be tied to surrounding buildings with four ropes and will stand on the Church square until August. The young men's t-shirt will be tied at the top of the tree as flags waving in the wind, a significant act and in reward of their efforts.
In the days after, the castles of fireworks mascletas, bonfires and processions in honor to San Juan, occur with emotion and excitement during the holidays, after the ancestral plant of l´Arbret.
Here is a youtube video from 2016 tree planting
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