Every 23 June, the Malaga coast, as well as pretty much anywhere else in Spain, is illuminated by blazing bonfires as thousands of people head to the beaches to enjoy the Fiesta de San Juan.
At midnight, huge firework displays mark the arrival of the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, whose feast day is actually on the 24th, but in most countries the festivities are held the night before. (This is one of the few saints’ days which commemorate the anniversary of the birth, rather than the death of the saint.)
The festival of San Juan, which marks the beginning of the summer, is full of pagan rituals centre around fire and, of course, water. As part of the festivities you must jump over the fires, which are lit to ward off evil spirits, three times in order to rid you of your problems. After this, a midnight dip in the sea, which according to tradition is purest on this night, will clean and purify your soul.
Celebrations are particularly lively on La Malagueta beach, where the evening gets started at around 9pm. This is one of the bigger fiestas and includes live music and entertainment, which continues until the early hours and, given the timing of the event, attracts a lot of university students who use the opportunity to burn their study notes following the exam period!
Another element to look out for is the burning of ‘juas’ (effigies) for which a prize for the most creative is awarded.