The main fiesta on the Spain’s Costa Blanca in June is the Hogueras, celebrated in the week or so leading up to the Noche de San Juan on 24 June. Most of the towns in the Costa Blanca area join in the celebrations, but the biggest display by far is in the city of Alicante.
The festival owes its origins to pagan times and coincides with the summer solstice. Traditionally, old bits of furniture or other unused wood was burnt on bonfires. Nowadays, however, special creations, called “niñots,” are made depicting everything from cartoon characters to caricatures of local and national politicians, in a similar way to the Fallas celebration that takes place in March in Valencia.
Niñots in the Streets of Alicante
These are made by skilled craftsmen who spend all year coming up with the designs and building the models. They can cost thousands of Euros to make. The models are put on display in the streets of each town for a week or so prior to the 24th June. In Alicante, the models tend to be huge and very impressive. Prizes are awarded for the best ones and the winner is saved from destruction to go on display in the Hogueras museum.
Next to each model is an open air café where people who have paid towards the building of that particular Hoguera (or Foguera in the local Valencian dialect) can sit and enjoy a drink or tapas during the festivities. Quite often patrons will get up and dance enthusiastically, either to bands or to piped music. These bars are called “barracas” and some are open to the general public too.
Burning of the Hogueras
Then on the big night, all the Hogueras are set on fire, accompanied by fireworks from the castle overlooking the city of Alicante and along the port area and the cheering of the crowds who usually end up with a soaking from the fire brigade who are on hand to make sure that everything stays more or less under control. The children especially enjoy that part of the proceedings!
There are usually events such as giant paella making competitions, verbenas (open air dances) and competitions for the children during Hogueras week. A special beauty queen, called the “Belleza de Foc” (Beauty of the Fire) is chosen and she is expected to take a leading role in the fiesta plus continue with various civic duties through the year. Usually, the “Belleza” wears a traditional costume with a huge skirt and a lace “mantilla” or head-dress which are specially made and cost a fortune. There is also a junior “Belleza” and both are accompanied by two princesses.
The festival is very popular with tourists and locals alike, with huge crowds in the streets and a week long party atmosphere. Not to be missed if you are going to be on the Costa Blanca in June.