Although officially this celebration dates back to 1928 when the local government introduced it as a way to attract tourism, in actual fact it has been held from times immemorial. Nearly all the inhabitants of Alicante would take themselves off into the country on the 23rd of June to feast on typical local products and then at midnight they would light bonfires and dance around the fire. There was no lack of rockets sailing off into the night, and it was a great opportunity for a midnight swim under the moonlight.
The spirit of the festivity has changed little from those days; it begins on the 20th of June with "La Plantá", when every district builds a huge bonfire and a second smaller one for children, all of which then take part in a general contest to choose the best one. The bands come out the night before, with all the musicians normally bedecked in traditional farmworkers' costumes.
During the following days, that is the 21st and the 22nd of June, numerous floral offerings are made to the Patron Saint of Alicante, our Lady of the Remedy. The beautiful ladies from each district, dressed to the nines in their equally beautiful typical costumes, lay their bouquets before the image of the Virgin at the Co-Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, creating at her feet an impressive and highly colourful tapestry that is a joy to behold.
The festivities continue on the 23rd with the International Folkloric Parade, which features lots of gaily decorated floats, dance troupes, bands of music and groups of dancers from different countries, all dancing to the sound of their own typical music.
Finally, the magical night arrives, the longest night of the year, that of the 24th of June, the Festivity of Saint John the Baptist, and that's when the famous "Cremà" begins, in other words, the lighting of some 90 bonfires throughout the city.
Why are the inhabitants of Alicante so interested in fire? It is thought that it has to do with ancient civilizations who realized that after the 23rd of June, as the summer progressed, the days would get shorter, and so they would build huge fires to help the sun conserve its energy.
Currently these bonfires are veritable works of art and at their base they all display curious and eye-catching "ninots", satirical human figures made from flammable materials. Some of them are pardoned, and are thus saved from the fire by popular vote.
The festive atmosphere never slackens throughout the night, far from it. At midnight, maintaining a tradition that dates back to 1932, a monumental white palm tree of fireworks is set off on nearby Mount Benacantil – recognisable by the famous Castle of Saint Barbara which sits on its peak.
In all the different neighbourhoods, some 70 barracas are set up (streets that are closed to traffic and taken over by bars, stages, a great atmosphere and lots of food and drink) in which old and young alike dance to the rhythm of marvellous music. If you visit Alicante around the end of June, be sure to join in with the "Alicantinos" and enjoy their festival. You'll be more than welcome!