The San Juan Fiestas in Alicante, or Bonfires of San Juan, are a celebration of pagan origin that is repeated in many towns in Spain and similarly in other cities around the world for the arrival of the summer solstice. They can go on from the 21st to 23rd of June, the shortest night of the year. In the fires, the evil is destroyed and the freshly picked harvests are celebrated.
In Alicante, people have a custom to celebrate the arrival of summer around a bonfire on the beach with music, food and drink, finally throwing rockets and swimming in the sea at night.
The “fogueres” or Alicante bonfires, are known as the “other fallas” since the early twentieth century, the city wanted to promote this event at a national and international like the Valencians had done, and today they are declared as a National and International Tourist Interest.
That is why, in this article instead of highlighting the similarities between the two fallas, as they share passion of fire and gunpowder with fireworks and “mascletás” or their parades and offerings, as well as highlighting the beauty of such constructions of this art as ephemeral, we will detail some of the most important differences:
The floral offering to the Virgin of the Helpless in Valencia is done by the devotees with their Fallera Mayor on their forehead, in the case of Alicante, parade in honor of their patron saint, the Virgin of the Remedy of all groups with their costumes with the “Beauty of Fire” as an ambassador.
The order in cremá and fireworks is different in the fallas and hogueras, while in Valencia fireworks are launched every night to end the Nit del Foc, in Alicante the week of firework castles begin after the “cremá” of the monuments, with its famous Palmera fireworks night of the 24th to the 25th of June.
The “Banya” is exclusive to Alicante on the cremá bonfires day, when firefighters try to cool the atmosphere before the flames of bonfires, to protect nearby buildings, when they tame the remains and are provoked by young kids for them to water them with their hoses.
The official drink during Fallas in Valencia there is the “agua de Valencia” (cava, orange juice, vodka and gin) and in the hogueras it’s the typical “dove” consisting of a mixture of diluted anise.
The typical food these days during the fallas is, on top of Paella, chocolate pumpkin fritters, and in the hogueras the “coca amb Tonina” which is a kind of tuna empanada with onions and pine nuts, and of course its varieties of rices.
The volume of fallas and fires is also very different, in the Fallas of Valencia you have about 400 monuments with their children’s versions in some of them, and while in Alicante there are approximately 100 each year.
The artistic focus of the monuments between Valencia and Alicante teachers also seems to have a different character, according to the people of Alicante the Valencian juries already have established canons that do not allow artists to have freedom in carrying out their artistic work.
Although anecdotally, there has been a case where the same artist as was Pere Baenas in 2014 was the first to win the first prize for the best falla in Valencia, and three months later have the best hoguera in the special category in the festival of San Juan in Alicante.
Another peculiarity of Alicante is that it also features the spectacular Puerto campfire, burning in the waters of the harbor basin of Alicante.