Bonfires are lit when the day 24, ie, after midnight. They are credited with protection and good luck to the fact a fire jump nine times that night (depending on the populations, the number varies). Also practitioners had to receive nine times waves at the nozzle to increase female fertility. Very dear are the bonfires on the Island of Arosa as each year more than 50 this solstice bonfires are lit on the site, with a festive atmosphere the beautiful white sand beaches are full of people to the orange firelight. At night they gather herbs of various kinds are left in water to wash the next morning it accounted for therapeutic and cleansing properties.
These beliefs pivot on three basic ideas: the importance of medicinal plants, especially in relation to health, youth and beauty; the protective character of fire to ward men off evil spirits and witches and, finally, the purifying, miraculous effects of water. What follows is a summary of Galician traditions surrounding St. John's festival in relation to these three elements.
- Medicinal plants:
In some areas, these are arranged in a bunch and hung in doorways. In most others, they are dipped in a vessel with water and left outside exposed to the dew of night until the following morning (o dia de San Xoan -St. John's day), when people use the resulting flower water to wash their faces.
The typical food of the evening are cachelos (baked potatoes with their skins, which is then removed) and grilled sardines. The typical drink is the "burning" magic potion of brandy with fruit and lots of sugar that is burned in a pot and recites a spell during the preparation. It's a party extended along the coast and most of Galicia.
In Portugal, Midsummer festivities are included in what is known today as Santos Populares (Popular Saints celebrations), now corresponding to different municipal holidays: St Anthony's Day in Lisbon (June 13), St John's Day in Porto, Braga, Figueira da Foz, and Almada (June 24), St Peter's day in Seixal, Sintra, Póvoa do Varzim, and Barcelos (June 29). The actual Midsummer, St John's day, is celebrated traditionally more in Porto and Braga.
Saints’ days are full of fun and merriment. The streets are decorated with balloons and arches made out of brightly coloured paper; people dance in the city's small squares, and altars, dedicated to the saints, are put up as a way of asking for good fortune. These holidays are days of festivities with good food and refreshments, people eat Caldo Verde (cabbage and potato soup), Sardinha Assada (grilled sardines), bread and drink red wine and água-pé (grape juice with a small percentage of alcohol).
In Lisbon, in Avenida da Liberdade, there are the Marchas, a parade of folklore and costumes of the inhabitants from the city's different traditional quarters, with hundreds of singers and dancers and a vast audience applauding their favorite participants. As St Anthony is the matchmaker saint, it is still the tradition in Lisbon to celebrate multiple marriages (200 to 300) and still following the tradition, if you are attracted to someone, one can declare himself in the heat of the festivities by offering to the loved person a manjerico (a flower-pot with a sweet basil plant) and a love poem.
In Porto and Braga St John's is a festival that is lived to the full in the streets, where anything is permitted. People carry a whole plant of flowering garlic with them (or a little plastic hammer), which they use to bang their neighbors over the head for good luck. According to one Portuguese Grandmother, the tradition is that St. John was a scalliwag in his youth and the people hit him on the head with the garlic saying "return to the right path". There is also dancing, while the highlight of the night is the firework display over the River Douro (in Porto) and down Avenida da Liberdade (in Braga). Across the country the traditional midsummer bonfire is also built, and following an ancient pagan tradition, revelers try to jump over the bonfire, this in order to gain protection during the rest of the year.