Bonfires of Saint John

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Bonfires of Saint John is the popular festival of Alicante, in the south east of Spain. Besides this specific festival, Bonfires of Saint John (on the eve of June 24) are celebrated in towns all around Spain and Alicante is the biggest city with this festival. These are made with any kind of wood including discarded furniture, and often people share hot chocolate while teens and children jump over the fire.


Introduction and origin of the festival

This festival is celebrated in June, from 19th to 24th, and it is the most important festival in the city of Alicante. Bonfires were born in 1928, thanks to Jose María Py, a man who loved Alicante. He saw that this city did not have a significant fiesta and he liked the Valencian festival: the "fallas". He thought that Alicante needed an identity sign and he was able to adapt the Valencian festival to this city. Before 1928 the bonfires of Saint John was celebrated in Alicante as the same form than in the rest of Europe: with old pieces of furniture, chairs, tables, etc. They were burned at Saint John's night (24th of June). After 1928 the festival changed and it was converted in the most important leisure act in the Alicantinian society.

The festival in general

Nowadays Bonfires start 19 June with the set up (la plantá), when monuments, street ninot's and archway to the "barracas" are set up in the streets. A pie of tuna (coca en toñina) and early figs (bacoras) are eaten at night.

From 19th to 24th there are the "despertás" at 8:00 a.m. when neighbours are awakened with a lot of noise in all the districts of the city. At 2:00 p.m. is made the "mascletá". It is a combination between fireworks and a string of firecrackers. At 7:00 p.m., there are bullfights. At night, from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. there are street parties in all the districts of the city. People are dancing and drinking all night at the "racós" and the "barracas".

On21 June, at 7:00 p.m. is made the Street Band Parade (Desfile de entrada de bandas). On 22nd is made, at 11:30 a.m. the Prize Giving Parade (Desfile de entrega de premios), and, at 7:00 p.m. is made the Flower Offering Parade to the Remedy's Virgin (Ofrenda de flores a la Virgen del Remedio). In those three parades people wear the popular clothes from Alicante, and, in the Flower Offering, women wear mantilla and they have a bunch of flowers.

On 23rd at 9:00 p.m. is made the International Folklore Parade (Desfile folklórico internacional). On 24th, at 12:00 p.m. is made the Palm tree (La Palmera), a magnificent cascade of fireworks, and it is followed by the Burning (La Cremá). It is the culmination of the festival and it is the burning of the main Bonfires, Street Ninot's and the Archways to the Barracas. However, not only there are acts on those days. At the beginning of June there are the Ninot and Children's Ninot Exhibition (Exposición del Ninot y del Ninot infantil), The Paella Contest (Certamen de Paellas), The tribute to past foguerers and barraquers (La ofrenda a foguerers y barraquers fallecidos), The Opening Ceremony (El Pregón), The Ninot Procession (La Cabalgata del Ninot), and the Street Parade of Ninots competition (La plantá de los Ninots de carrer).

After24 June there is the Firework Display Competition (Concurso de Castillos de Fuego) and the String of Firecrackers Display (Concurso de tracas) in the Postiguet Beach. There are Sports events and a Medieval Street Market too.

There are many acts during the year. In autumn, there is the Artistic Competition (Concurso artístico). It is a musical and dancing competition made by the members of the Bonfires commissions. In December there is the Christmas Carol Competition (Concurso de villancicos), made by the same. In May is the Beauty of the Fire Contest (Festival de elección de la Bellea del Foc), the most important act outside festive period. After that is the Beauty of the Fire Proclamation (Proclamación de la Bellea del Foc). During the year, there are the Presentations of the Beauties in all the districts of Alicante.


Bonfires are organised in commissions. A commission is a group of people who are working all the year to obtain a lot of money. They need the money to pay the monuments, the lighting, the music band, the orchestra, the flowers, etc. The member of a commission is called "foguerer". In Alicante there are 86 commissions.

A commission usually represents one zone, a place or an avenue in the city, but there are many zones with a lot of commissions. For example, Carolinas has got five commissions: Carolinas Altas, Carolinas Bajas, Foguerer-Carolinas, Doctor Bergez-Carolinas and Bola de Oro.

A commission has got a president who is the person in the most important charge. He or She must organise all the people who shape the commission, and He or She must accompany the Beauty in many acts. There are other charges like vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and delegates of lottery, festivals, beauties, "racós", etc.

The commissions organise and take part in a lot of acts during the year: Artistic Competition, Parades, Presentation of the Beauty, etc. But not only the commission can take part in those acts. The participation of the residents of the district is very important and, sometimes, they are the first source of taking. In districts like Ciudad de Asís, Florida-Portazgo, Los Ángeles and Carolinas Altas the relation between commission and district's residents is very strong.

Other very important source of taking is the lottery. It is sold by the members of the commission. There are other sources less important like tombolas, raffles, sale of products, etc. There are "barracas" too. A "barraca" is a group of friends who don't take part in all the acts, and they shape money only to eat, drink and dance in the festival, in a place in the street called "barraca". The member of a "barraca" is called "barraquer".

The "barracas" and the "racós" are places in the street with tables, chairs, bar, orchestra and dance floor. Here people are eating, talking, drinking and dancing during the festival. The difference between "barraca" and "racó" is that the "racó" is to the entire district and the entrance is free. The "barraca" is particular. The "racó" is made by the "foguerers" and the "barraca" is made by the "barraquers".


Beauty is the most emblematic element in the Bonfires after the monument. The Beauty is the queen of the festival and she is always a female.

This figure was born in 1932, four years after Bonfire's origin. She was called Beauty because it was wanted that she was a very good-looking lady who represents Alicante. At the beginning she was like a "Miss" but nowadays it has changed, and she is respected and admired.

Actually there are Beauties and Infantile Beauties since there are Bonfires and Infantile Bonfires. A Infantile Beauty is a girl who is from nine to eleven years. A Beauty is a woman who is from eighteen to twenty five years.

There are 86 Beauties and 86 Infantile Beauties since a Beauty is the representation of a commission. A Beauty is the representative of the commission. She can have two or four Honour Ladies in her commission.

Before the year of the reign in her district, is elected the Beauty of the Fire (Bellea del Foc) among all the Beauties of the last year, calleds Candidates. The Beauty of the Fire is the queen of the festival in all the city. She is elected in a contest and the people call it "La Elección". In this, not only is elected the Beauty of the Fire, are elected six Ladies of the Fire (Damas del Foc) among all the Candidates. They are the Honour Ladies in all the city.

The Beauty of the Fire and her Honour Ladies must be good-looking, intelligent, nice, kind and cheerful, since they have to represent Alicante in the festivals from Valencia, Murcia, Castellón, Zaragoza, etc.

The Contest is always at Saturday night. Next day, in the evening is the Infantile Beauty of the Fire Contest. The difference with the oldest is that Infantile Beauty of the Fire and her Ladies are elected by a raffle because all the girls must be the same opportunities.

There are districts famous because their women are most often very beautiful and they are elected. Florida-Portazgo is the main.


There are three traditional clothes: Novia alicantina (Alicantinian Bride). Is the costume that wears Beauties and Honour Ladies. It is made up of:

  • A ban in the hair.
  • A White and round mantilla.
  • A Lemon blossom, little bunch.
  • Two hangings.
  • A Cross with jewellery in the neck.
  • A black, velvet, waist with long sleeves.
  • A fan.
  • A black apron with jewellery.
  • A long skirt.
  • A petticoat (enaguas).
  • White stockings.
  • Black heels.

Labradora (farmer): Is the costume for the other women. It is made up of:

  • A ban in the hair with flowers.
  • Two hangings.
  • A cross with a black ribbon in the neck.
  • A white piece called "manteleta".
  • A waist made in colours.
  • A white apron.
  • A long skirt, the same of the Beauties.
  • A petticoat (enaguas).
  • White stockings.
  • Black heels.

Zaragüelles: Is the costume to the men. It is made up of:

  • A scarf in the head or in the neck.
  • A cotton, white, shirt.
  • A blanket with pockets.
  • A long sash at the same colour that the scarf.
  • A very full white trousers called "zaragüelles".
  • A white stockings.
  • A shoes called "espardeñas".

Art: Monuments

Bonfires are an art show. In autumn there is the Artistic Competition among the Commissions of the Bonfires. In the Festival there is Street's Ninots. This is an old tradition that was recovered two years ago. All the years there is the Official Poster of the Festival, a beautiful art demonstration. But the most important in this festival are the Monuments, who are called Bonfires (Hogueras or Fogueres). They are made of wood, cardboard, mud, painting and, nowadays, of cork and polyurethane too. A Bonfire is not only an artistic creation, is a critic of the societal, political and economical situation of the world in general and the city of Alicante specially. Critics are made across the "Ninot" or figure. The Ninot usually represent a famous person, a political in many chances and they find the laugh of the people.

Bonfires are not the same of Valencian Fallas. When Bonfires were born in Alicante there were not "falleros" artists, and the firsts Bonfires were made by local painters and sculptors. They did not imitate Valencian style, they were very varguardist and they followed Art-Dèco and other artistic currents. This vanguard continued along the history (except 70's, when Valencian style was adopted), and today Bonfires are different yet.

A Bonfire is paid by Commission, Residents and Shops contributions. Monument Competition is the most important contest in the Bonfire's world. Monuments are divided in seven categories according to the price. There are from 1st to 6th Category, and the Special Category. In this last are situate the Bonfires with a price higher than 60.100 euros.

The most important artists along the Bonfire's history are Gastón Castelló, Ramón Marco, Remigio Soler, Ángel Martín, Pedro Soriano, José Muñoz and Paco Juan. The best district is Benalúa, with 18 victories. Other very good districts are Ciudad de Asís, Carolinas Altas, Mercado Central, Alfonso el Sabio and Hernán Cortés.

Bonfires are kindled on 20th in an act called "La plantá", and they are burned at 24th in a very beautiful and emotive act called "La cremá" (the burning). This last is the end and the beginning of the Alicantinian Festival.

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