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Grab Your Wooden Effigies! It's San Juan Day in Spain

In Spain, San Juan's day eve means a lot of bonfires.

The holiday is celebrated throughout the country. But the most popular celebrations take place in Alicante, Galicia and Catalonia, where people gather together to throw unwanted wooden objects and dolls (traditionally representing Judas Iscariot but nowadays, usually infamous national figures) into bonfires. According to tradition, if one jumps over the bonfire three times, their souls are cleansed.

Participants traditionally wash their faces and feet in the ocean three times after midnight in order to be granted three wishes and a happy ensuing twelve months.

Preparation for the holiday begins on June 19, and culminates with fireworks after midnight on the 24th. Below, via Reuters, scenes from Spain:


People hold a trunk with a "jua" (or doll) to be set on fire on a beach on San Juan's (or Saint John's) night, which traditionally is the shortest night of the year, in the southern Spanish town of Malaga, late June 23, 2013. On San Juan's night, people burn objects they no longer want and make wishes as they jump through flames or swim in the sea. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


People watch as the effigy of a witch is burnt in a San Juan bonfire at the Basque port town of Mundaka June 24, 2013. Fires made of unwanted furniture, old school books, wood and effigies of malign spirits are lit across Spain to celebrate the night of San Juan, a purification ceremony coinciding with the summer solstice. (REUTERS/Vincent West)


People attend a party held during the night of the San Juan bonfire on the beach of Playa de Poniente in Gijon June 24, 2013. Fires formed by burning unwanted furniture, old school books, wood and effigies of malign spirits are seen across Spain as people celebrate the night of San Juan, a purification ceremony coinciding with the summer solstice. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)


A full moon also referred to as a "super moon" rises over the San Juan bonfire on the beach of Playa de Poniente in Gijon June 24, 2013. Fires formed by burning unwanted furniture, old school books, wood and effigies of malign spirits are seen across Spain as people celebrate the night of San Juan, a purification ceremony coinciding with the summer solstice. (REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)


A man watches fireworks as he takes a bath in the Mediterranean Sea on San Juan's (or Saint John's) night, which traditionally is the shortest night of the year, in the southern Spanish town of Malaga, early June 24, 2013. On San Juan's night, people burn objects they no longer want and make wishes as they jump through flames or swim in the sea. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)

Keywords: Spain

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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