Noite de Meigas.
June 23rd is celebrated for the summer solstice, the longest night of the year when we leave spring behind to welcome summer. It is also a magical night, a true “Noite de Meigas”. It is a festival that is celebrated in many cultures.
This tradition in Galicia was preserved long before the arrival of Christianity. In the 6th century, Martiño de Dumio, Bishop of Braga tried to exterminate it along with other pagan festivals, but it has survived to this day and in many areas today is a great night of celebration.
It is a night associated with fire, the fire serves as a cleaning tool, which burns everything bad and gives way to the good.
In Galicia, the tradition consists of lighting the so-called “cacharelas”, over which one must then jump in order to drive away evil spirits.
The bonfires of A Coruña are well known, a city that lives the night of San Xoan to the max, with large bonfires by the sea and on its popular beaches partying until dawn.
But there is also an enthusiastic celebration in the cities this evening. In Santiago de Compostela, the city is full of bonfires. The most popular campfires are in the old town. It is highly recommended to admire the walls of Compostela in the warm light of the fire and enjoy the festive and popular atmosphere of the narrow streets.
In addition, delicious sardines are prepared in the embers, it is the western season to enjoy the delicious, grilled sardines.
“Por San Xoan, a sardiña molla o pan” (An San Xoan – bread with sardines)
According to tradition in Galicia, freshly caught sardines are cooked over the embers of the campfire on the night of San Xoan. It is ideal to accompany them with a good piece of corn bread or other typical bread. This type of bread, which was most common in Galicia at the time, is now more difficult to find and more expensive than normal, indistructive wheat bread. However, in many places the sardines are served with all kinds of bread. In any case, it is important to enjoy the bread soaked in the sauce made when grilling the sardines, which tastes of the sea and summer.
Herbas de San Xoan. (Herbs of San Xoan)
To complete our soul-cleansing ritual, in addition to skipping the bonfires or “cacharelas”, we will resort to the rite of the “Herbs of San Xoan”. The ideal is to go out on the afternoon of June 23rd to collect the seven traditional herbs.
- Herbal Luísa
- Johannis herbs
They are all aromatic plants and they leave a rich and fresh perfume in your home. Many florists and markets today sell ready-made branches that also contain other aromatic herbs.
The “San Xoan Herbs” should be soaked in water overnight. Tradition also says that this water must come from seven sources. They must be left outside overnight, as the dew (“orballo”) also fulfills its function in this magical infusion.
In the morning, if possible, we should wash our faces and feet with the water and concentrate on where the sun rises. The water from the “Herbas de San Xoan” is said to have magical, medicinal and cosmetic properties. Although there is no scientific evidence for these properties, the truth is that the aroma of plants and the freshness of the water after all night outdoors are really pleasant on contact with the skin.
Traditionally, herbs were dried and then used in various remedies. Nowadays, many people dry the branches as a decorative element and as a protection of the house from evil spirits.
Night of party and tradition.
The night of June 23rd is a night of celebration across Galicia. In fact, the 24th is a public holiday in many areas. They are well attended and very popular parties where everyone takes to the streets. This year 2020, public activities were canceled to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, in most homes, with family members or small groups of friends, some of these traditions are celebrated with the same enthusiasm as always.
Happy noite de meigas !!!