The summer solstice is a special time of year in many cultures across the world.
Historically, in the Alpujarra region, it was a magical time. It was said that people would be cured of physical ailments, crops would be saved, and great revelations would occur at this time of year.
San Juan Rituals
The elements, water, earth, and fire are all part of the celebrations during the four days of the San Juan festivities in the town. Water represents healing and female fertility. The earth represents love and the fire is for purification.
During the night of San Juan, it is said you can make a promise to last a lifetime by making a small cross on a tree trunk. Jumping over a bonfire seven times will supposedly grant you protection for the rest of the year. It is also said that by placing nine different kinds of flowers under your pillow on the night of San Juan, you will make a wish come true.
There is also a Catholic celebration during this period. A special mass is held in honour of Saint John the Baptist.
For the last 42 years, Lanjarón has hosted a huge fiesta over the weekend of San Juan. It’s known as the Fiesta del Agua y del Jamón, the Festival of Water and Ham.
There are fairground rides at one end of the town. Over the course of four days, there are usually events, stalls, and activities for everyone to get involved with. In the evenings, there is live music.
This year, because of coronavirus, the music will be in the form of ‘caravanas’. Cars pull little trailers upon which are balanced singers, DJs, and instrumentalists. The bands stop outside the bars throughout the town.
A huge pole is erected in the main square of the town. A jamón is attached to the top. The pole itself is greased with olive oil and the first person to touch the jamón is the winner. The prize is the jamón itself.
The Water Fight
The evening before San Juan, 24th June, is the big event: the famous water fight. People come from miles around and are well prepared; even cigarettes are placed inside waterproof pockets.
It’s illegal to throw water before midnight. You could face a fine and even an assault charge.
A cannon goes off at midnight and the chaos begins. Everyone sits in the street and ‘rows’ while water is thrown on them, whilst they’re singing the San Juan song. People with flats lining the main street hook up hoses to their kitchen taps and cover the crowd.
Another cannon booms at 1am and the crowds disperse. Everyone goes back home, get changed out of their wet clothes, and comes back out to continue the party. Mojitos and sweet biscuit-type food, called churros, are two of the most popular stalls.
Around 6am, everyone will finally crawl home to bed.
Coronavirus put paid to festivities last year. This year, things are happening but with careful precautions in place. The huge water fight didn’t happen this year, for example. Next year, hopefully things will be back to normal and you can all come and experience this traditional, quaint little town through caution, and water, to the wind.