IMG_9087IMG_9086Photo credit 1-3: Mikol HoffmanPhoto credit 4: http://quehaydepuertorico.wordpress.com

For Puerto Ricans–and anyone visiting Puerto Rico on the eve of June 23 for that matter— the Noche de San Juan is the summer’s biggest beach party, full of food, drinks, live music, and plenty of bikinis.  This no-holds-barred festivity actually harkens back to time-honored traditions celebrating the capital city’s namesake and patron saint, St. John the Baptist.

The island of San Juan el Bautista (the original name for Puerto Rico), has been celebrating    the Christian version of the holiday since 1637. It was brought over directly from Spain and marks the birth of St. John (June 24). However, its roots can be traced back to pagan festivals that honored the Summer Solstice (June 21) and paid tribute to the sun by burning effigies. Christians later used fire and water as baptismal symbols for the purification of sins.  Nowadays, on the eve of John’s birth (June 23), celebrations all over the world incorporate fire and water to celebrate the shortest (and most magical!) night of the year.

While elsewhere across the globe revel-goers celebrate by jumping over bon-fires and burning all sorts of crazy items, Puerto Rico’s tradition is unique. At the stroke of midnight, thousands of festivalgoers descend on shorelines all across the island to jump backwards into the ocean and ward off the mal de ojo (evil eye).  The water is said to be blessed that evening, and anyone who jumps in backwards (either 3, 7, or 12 times) will bring in good luck for the rest of the year. Don’t have a beach close by? Any body of water works: pool, lake, river, even your own bathtub!

To make matters even more magical, June 23, 2013 falls on an extraordinary astral phenomenon, when the moon will be 30,000 miles closer to planet Earth that night than it normally is. 2013′s Noche de San Juan will be brilliantly illuminated by what astrologers are calling a Super Moon, so don’t forget your cameras!

As locals and tourists flood the Puerto Rican coastline, here’s a quick Noche de San Juan survival guide: 1.) Arrive early to find parking. 2.) Bring a towel and bathing suit. 3.) Bring a plastic bag for all your trash 4.) Make sure to pack a cooler full of food, ice, and drinks that will keep you going late. Remember the real fun happens at midnight!

As modern partying and old world superstitions and customs combine, Noche de San Juan has become celebration to welcome the summer, full of tradition, joy, fun, and lots of merry-making like only Puerto Ricans know. Come down and initiate the summer revelry at a Puerto Rican beach on Noche de San Juan!

 

Mikol Hoffman, manager of Puerto Rico’s *original* culinary tour company Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tours. Contact info: info@flavorsofsanjuan.com