Alicante, Saint John and the Bonfires

Alicante, Spanish culture, Spanish traditions | June 12, 2012 | No comments

The next 24th of June, at night, Alicante dresses up in full regalia and fire. The city celebrates the feast of its Bonfires: an event that has often been unfairly considered as the “smaller version” of the Fallas. There is fire, spectacle, sculptures… even the use of the same terms as “plantá” (when the Bonfires are prepared), “mascletá” (daily fireworks show), or “cremá” (the night when the sculptures burn). To a newcomer’s eyes, the celebrations in Valencia and Alicante could seem to be the same thing, but between the two celebrations there are more differences than it seems at first sight.

The Bonfires of Saint John are a more recent celebration: according to the chronicles, the first edition took place in 1928, influenced by the preparations of the International Exposition in Barcelona that would take place in 1929. They were born with a vanguard spirit, as can be inferred by the graphic documents of the sculptures, with a modernist and art-deco touch to them.

In the Bonfires of Alicante the artistic and spectacular sense prevails...

In the Bonfires of Alicante the artistic and spectacular sense prevails...

This philosophy is still present in our days: a skilled spectator will note that the satirical element is left in the background and may not even be present. In the Bonfires of Alicante the artistic and spectacular sense prevails: the sculptures don’t need to have a meaning, but they should be as adventurous as possible. Many artists claim to experience a creative freedom in Alicante’s celebration that they could never have in Valencia.

This creative freedom allows to forget something as representative as the “ninot”. It may well be that the visitor doesn’t pay attention to it, but if he looks closer he will discover the usual human figure to be missing. Far from looking incomplete, the Bonfires look lighter, more ethereal and even more abstract.

Also colour helps in telling the difference...

Also colour helps in telling the difference...

Also colour helps in telling the difference: the Bonfires have lighter and softer colours. But it has to be clear that the difference is merely practical: since there is more light in the summer the need for stronger, more vibrant colours is unnecessary.

But the great difference can’t be described: one must see the spectacle of Saint John, be in front of the Bonfire and surrounded by locals to perceive it. We hope this text calls the traveller’s attention and invites him to spend some days of his holydays in Alicante.

By the way, with this text we don’t want to make one celebration seem better than the other. What we want is to state their differences clearly, explain why they are different, and thus revoke the idea that if one attends one of the celebrations, then other one is unnecessary. One must see both: they are both different expressions that should be enjoyed separately.


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