Fire it up for San Juan on the Costa del Sol!

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THE COSTA del Sol will erupt in flames tonight (Friday) as municipalities up and down the coast celebrate the magical San Juan bonfires [Hogueras de San Juan] festival.

Coinciding with the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year, and rooted in ancient tradition, the event is among the most important in Spanish culture and should not be missed.

It is normally held on the beach with raging bonfires rage and screaming fireworks, while revellers also light smaller fires of their own in permitted areas.

In Malaga province, it is also typical to burn cloth dolls known as Juas before leaping over the flames three times in order to cleanse the soul.

At midnight, everyone runs to the sea to jump the first seven waves of the new day before taking the plunge to guarantee a year of health and good luck, thus combining the purifying elements of fire and water.

Other traditions include washing the face in the sea, a river or natural spring for eternal beauty.

Inland, locals may even remove their clothes and walk through dewy meadows to fulfil the water part of the ritual.

One custom peculiar to the Costa del Sol is said to have originated in Torremolinos.

Participants, especially youngsters, write three wishes or requests to Saint John on a piece of paper which is then thrown into the fire.

Some may also add undesirable aspects of their lives, such as vices, to be devoured by the flames.

Organised events are planned throughout the coast, with details available on council websites, although many will opt to hit the beach of their own accord, watching the multitude of firework displays from afar.

Particularly popular options include Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Marbella beaches, where certain areas are designated for the lighting of fires, while in Malaga City Malagueta and Misericordia beaches offer live music and other entertainment.

In the mountains of Ronda, the village of Benaojan is famed for its Mountain Night of San Juan, with a free barbecue, music, dancing and other festivities.

Whether on holiday or a long-term resident, tonight is the night to get involved in a truly memorable example of how the Spanish celebrate like no other European nation.

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