Photo: Arona Ayuntamiento.

Tenerife has its own bonfire night, on the eve of the annual midsummer festival of San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist). On Noche de San Juan, St John’s Eve, 23 June, Tenerife is lit up with bonfires, and with smoke swirling in the hills throughout the island, many visitors often think that an early summer fire has broken out. This year, on Sunday, is certain to be no different.

The celebrations are not restricted to the inland hills and villages, however, with fires and parties on many beaches. Particularly popular are the ones held in El Médano, Los Cristianos, and Fañabe in the south, and Playa Jardín in Puerto de la Cruz, but one of the most spectacular will no doubt again be the west coast celebration at the fiesta’s namesake beach of Playa San Juan. If you are near one of these beach parties, which continue despite occasional attempts by some local Ayuntamientos to ban them, you will see the clear pagan origins of the midsummer rite with people leaping over the flames three times, a purification ritual to burn away sins and misfortunes, and so bring good luck for the next year.

Photo: Puerto de la Cruz Ayuntamiento

In Guía de Isora, San Juan Bautista’s Day itself, the 24th, is a public holiday, and in Puerto de la Cruz goat keepers from the hills above the town bring their flocks down to the sea to bathe them in the early morning waves. This Baño de Cabras (bathing of the goats) is another tradition with pagan roots, making the goats quite literally “scapegoats”, whose own purification brings good fortune to all in the local community. Thousands come to watch the spectacle.

Please do check with your local council if you’re planning a bonfire of your own –  here are Adeje’s safety regulations for private bonfires, but they apply to anyone anywhere!

  • Bonfires are forbidden in barrancos, protected natural zones, close to residential areas or zones deemed dangerous.
  • Permits are required from the council for private bonfires anywhere other than the coast (see next point).
  • The provincial coasts (Costas) department are the only body who can grant the necessary permits for beach bonfires. If you light a bonfire without permission you are liable to fines and/or prison and the police will be vigilant about asking for the relevant documentation.
  • Bonfires are also forbidden on public roads or public spaces without the written permission of the body in charge of the particular zone.
  • Any bonfire must be in a place that is easily accessible by the emergency services. It must not be near trees, bushes, electrical fences or posts, cars, buildings, etc. The fire can be lit and maintained between the hours of 9pm and 2am (June 23rd – June 24th), and always away from any area that would affect residents (noise consideration too).
  • Before setting the fire, clean the surrounding area to avoid danger of the fire spreading out of control. If a fire is not safely set or placed, the authorities will have the right to extinguish it.
  • Have a 2-metre wide firewall around the fire.
  • The firewood piles must not be higher than one metre. You may burn wood and similar materials. You may not burn materials that will release toxic or contaminated products, pressurised containers, plastic, tyres, greenhouse materials, fireworks or any other risk-related items.
  • The bonfire must be looked after until it is completely extinguished and at least two hours after embers have been glowing. The fire must not be lit if there is excess wind or other meteorological conditions declared by the regional government that would affect it (high temperatures, etc).
  • In the case of any form of emergency people should call 112 or the local police, 922 47206 / 922 716508.
  • The person who signs the application is also taking responsibility for any fires or covering the cost of any damage caused by the bonfire as well as the cost of any service that is called to attend to a problem caused by the bonfire.

Source: Janet Anscombe 

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