Fogueres de Sant Joan (big sculptures made out of wood, cardboard and other materials) is a Festival celebrated annually from 20th to 24th June in honour of San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist), patron saint of the municipality
This is a very ancient festival in Sant Joan because, since the Christian conquest, the first church located in the mosque of the Islamic period was consecrated to San Juan Bautista, so the town took this same name. The importance and devotion to San Juan Bautista comes from far back, since in the II Synod of the Diocese of Orihuela, celebrated in 1600, this celebration was declared holy day of obligation, together with the Beheading of Saint John on 29 August
The original festival had a popular character and consisted of religious acts in honour to the saint, among them, the procession was outstanding, as well as other typical profane acts like dances, games, parades and other activities. They took place in calle del Mar, whose saint Patron was San Juan, acquiring hence the category of Sant de Carrer (Saint of the Street), besides being venerated by the whole town.
Besides, on the night of San Juan, from 23 to 24 June, coinciding with the summer solstice, the ‘huertanos’ (cropland farmers) burned wood and old furniture in many bonfires symbolizing the passage to the new summer season, fulfilling an ancestral tradition.
In 1928, coinciding with the festivity of San Juan and taking the idea from the traditional bonfires, the current ‘fogueres’ began to be celebrated in the city of Alicante, thanks to the promotion of several enthusiasts like José María Py. These monuments were made of wood and cardboard and consisted of ‘ninots’ (figures), very similar to those of the ‘Falles de València’. It was the beginning of the official festival of the city of Alicante which, in turn, caused the decline of the festivities of San Juan, which remained timidly with their simple festive acts.
Nevertheless, the traditional ‘fogueres’ of Alicante with ‘ninots’ finally arrived to Sant Joan in 1967. That year, some neighbours created the Peña Taurina de Palomo Linares, among who was José García Gálvez, president and spirit of the festival for many years. With the surplus funds of the Peña, they decided to pay for a party the day of San Juan and to build a ‘Foguera’ by the artist Ramón Marco. To carry it on, they received the help of the neighbours of calle San Antonio and plaza Maisonnave. Also, a ‘Bellea’, representative person of indisputable importance in any ‘fogueril’ commission (festive commission related to the Fogueres), was appointed for the festival.
In 1969 the ‘Foguera’ was formalized as a festive commission and these celebrations began to be developed with all their acts and characteristics. Some years later, the ‘Foguera’ began to be built by the commission along with the junior ‘Foguera’ that was planted for many years in the market due to the neighbours’ fondness. During the 70s, the ‘fogueres’ of the town of Sant Joan lived their splendid years, and had the affection of many neighbours who planted monuments and barracks in many areas. Some districts like Navarregui or Canyaret stood out for being especially ‘fogueriles’. However, the ‘Fogueres’ festivities declined in favour of the Christ’s festivities and today there is only the ‘Foguera’ Plaza Maisonnave commission, the one originally created in 1969, which currently plants three ‘fogueres’: plaza Maisonnave, senior and junior ‘fogueres’, and plaza de la Constitución.
At the moment, the previous acts begin with the Presentation of the Llibret and the Election and Coronation of the senior and junior Belleas and Damas of the ‘fogueres’, who dress the typical clothing of this celebration, as in the city of Alicante, designed by Tomás Valcárcel Deza after the Civil War. There are also the Pregó de Fogueres (Festival announcement) and the Pasacalle del Fuego (Fire Parade), which are attended by festive commissions and the Bellea del Foc of the city of Alicante.
The festival begins on 20 June with the ‘plantà de la foguera’ (set up of the monument). This day people usually eat ‘coca amb tonyina’ (tuna pie) and ‘bacores’ (figs), which are two of the typical products of ‘Fogueres’ days. The Foguera commission also plants the ‘barraca’ (festival tent) next to its main monument to enjoy the meals and parties of these festive days.
Throughout these days ‘despertàs’ (wake), parades, and the visits of the commission to different places of the municipality take place, which also participates in the acts that take place in the city of Alicante such as the Entrance of Bands and the Floral Tribute to The Virgin of the Remedy, patron saint of the city.
On 23 June, St. John’s Eve, the main events of the festival begin with the evening Floral and Fruits Tribute in the evening, in which many festive personalities participate. At night, the traditional San Juan night, the ‘sobaquillo’ dinner and the bonfire of old furniture are celebrated according to the huertanos tradition called ‘cremà’. This tradition was recovered some years ago by the Cultural Association Lloixa and brings together a large number of people who come to enjoy the fire and water that firefighters throw to extinguish the flames once they have reached their zenith. After the burning, party continues at night in the ‘racó’ (tent) of the foguera.
On 24 June, the day begins with the ‘despertà’, including firecrackers, music and bell ringing. At noon, the great Mass of San Juan is celebrated, followed by a traditional snack and a ‘mascletà’ (pyrotechnic spectacle). In the afternoon, the main event is the procession of San Juan, when neighbours and devotees cross the main streets of the town. The statue carries a cluster fig, usually tied to one of its hands, in reference to the typical fruit of these dates and the traditional Valencian saying: “Per Sant Joan bacores, verdes o madures, però segures” (In Sant Joan figs, greens or matures, but for sure).
At night, after dinner in the ‘racò’, the awaited ‘cremà’ takes place. Neighbours and music band traverse the streets as the Hogueras monuments burn, except from the ‘ninots indultats’(pardoned figures). . During the ‘cremà’, fireworks are displayed while the Hogueras hymn by Master Luis Torregrosa is played. Firemen pour water on both the monuments and those who want to cool off.
Did you know…?
The Festivity of Saint John’s night, coinciding with the summer solstice, is one of the most widespread festivities throughout the Mediterranean Sea and part of Europe. It is especially celebrated in all our geography and has a symbolic and magical nature, in which water and fire are united, celebrating numerous rites around both elements. In our nearby beaches it is usual to find several groups of friends and families who come to have dinner on the sand and shortly after improvise their bonfires around which they sing, jump, dance and drink.
Saint John the Baptist, the second cousin of Christ, is the only saint whose onomastics is celebrated on the day of his birth, 24 June, and not on the day of his death, 29 August. The date of the martyrdom, already declared holy day of obligation in our town in the early 1600s, has also been celebrated many times in Sant Joan d’Alacant. The well-known festivity of the Beheading of Saint John included vespers, solemn mass and cloistral procession with the artistic figure of the head of Saint John placed on a silver tray that did the route under a small incarnated pallium carried by children. In addition, popular dances were performed in honour of the saint. The festivity disappeared during the Civil War and it was not recovered until 1999 when the two-thousandth anniversary of Saint John the Baptist was commemorated. Since then, it has been celebrated on some occasions.
The main figure of Saint John presides over the main altar of the church since the creation of the temple. One of those that disappeared during the Civil War and that was located in the presbytery had been donated by Juan Maisonnave Cuyatar, who enjoyed the summer in the property Villa Marco while his brother Eleuterio lived in the beautiful finca Abril. After the civil war, a large figure was made for the high altar and also another processional smaller figure for which the sculptor used a child and a lamb as models.