San Juan, the shortest night of the year
This celebration dates back to the 5.000 AC, but the history around it, is so varied that it is very difficult to determinate its origin.
There are signs of the celebration in almost every ancient culture we have known: Celtic Druids, Greeks, Romans, Aztecs, Incas, Berber, etc., etc.
Our ancestors realized that the sun had begun to lose power and days were becoming shorter and shorter. Confused, they started to fear the sun won’t come up again and the cold night would cover them up forever. It was back then, when the first rituals to venerate the sun were born along with the “San Juan” celebrations, under difference names and diverse rituals.
It is known that the first rituals appeared around 5.000 AC and it has a Celtic origin. The Celtic Druids, celebrated the so call “Alban Heruin” during the summer solstice, a ritual where they used to light up large bonfires, looking for the blessing of their lands, good wishes for the couples in love, and fertility for women. During the ceremony, they invoked the elements of nature, represented by animals such as salamander or some mythological characters like the goblins.
Greek mythology tells us that the solstice celebration was considered an access gate for the sun to men’s spiritual dimension. According to the ancient Greeks, the sun was downsizing, showing first on the outside and once on the other dimension, to illuminate the inside and help men to assimilate their experiences. This imaginary gate was known as “Men’s gate”
The Berbers of north Morocco and Algeria celebrated for centuries the “Ansara” Just like in Spain, they lit up fires in all those places that need to be purified. During the celebration, they threw into the fire all kinds of herbs and smoked their tools, because they believe that the smoke protects their land from pests. Also they jumped 7 times over the coals and purified with branches inside the houses and the sick people as well.
On the other hand, the Christian religion, celebrates the famous “Noche de San Juan” on the 24th June, in honor of Juan Bautista’s birthday. Originaly it was taken from the Pagan Cult to the Teachings of the Bible, based on the big fire Zacarías lit up after his son, Juan, was born and jump over the flames, reciting prayers to God to announce the good news. According to the sacred scriptures, it happened after the Archangel Gabriel, came to Zacarías on a dream, to announce his paternity and due to his lack of faith, he did not believe it.