Traditionally the San Juans night is celebrated between June 23 and 24 –Although in some places they do it from 24 to 25– and the reason is none other than to celebrate the birth of Saint John Baptist.
Saint John was born on June 24 – approximately six months before Jesus Christ – and Christianity celebrates this date every year. However why fire is so important in that celebration? Why is it so close to the summer solstice? What is the reason that it is so similar in many places in the world?
Like many other Christian festivals, the Night of San Juan drinks from the pagan tradition. And it is that the primitive Christians took into account the festive days that already existed to “take them to their land”. That is, the Night of San Juan is, according to the most generalized opinion, the Christianization of rituals that took place during the aforementioned summer solstice, that is, on the longest day of the year.
The regenerating fire
You have probably seen dozens of celebrations in which bonfires are lit on beaches, squares, meadows … This also has a religious explanation. The father of Saint John the Baptist, Zechariah, lit a bonfire to celebrate that his son had been born.
However, this reason is again based on ancient rites where fire was a regenerative element. Apparently many towns lit bonfires on the longest day of the year (usually the June 21) to give even more strength to the sun, which was the one that brought good weather and made it possible for the fields to bear fruit.
Likewise, in these bonfires objects were burned to drive away evil spirits and purify oneself from any harmful aspect that one had.
In the night of time
The curious thing of all is that the beginning of such rituals is not really known. There are researchers who even go back a year 5000 BC, but the fact that it is celebrated in disparate places with such different religions and beliefs could explain that, no matter where they lived, the human being knew when the day lasted longer and celebrated it.
Even so, there are opinions contrary to this explanation, pointing as an argument the difference of 3 days between the solstitice and the feast of San Juan. Be that as it may, this night of rites and festivities has become “paganized” again, since all the paraphernalia that surrounds it tends to stay away from Christian motives to get carried away by the oldest beliefs.