By Jack Troughton THOUSANDS crammed the streets of Jávea old town for the magical ‘Nit de Focs’ – the night of fires - and the dramatic climax of the annual midsummer San Juan festivities.
Along the beaches of the Costa Blanca, the first minutes of June 24 mean people will jump through bonfires in an ancient ceremony dating back before Christian times and intended to clear away the burden of sin for another year, while taking on board a helping of good fortune.
And while the beaches of Jávea are full of friends and families enjoying the tradition, the midsummer madness in the historic ‘pueblo’ is actually official and recognised as an event of special cultural and tourist interest.
There is a queue to circumnavigate the ancient town centre, leaping through six strategically placed bonfires. Groups of friends, families, pensioners, babes in arms, and bands - the drums falling silent for the jump into the flames - all patiently queue for the lucky leap of faith.
Everyone wears a crown of green. The end point is marked by a really big bonfire - hoses damp down the walls of apartments - where the crown is hurled into the fire while making a wish.
The primeval drum beat gets even louder before the street lights are turned off. The festival continues with ‘correfocs’, or chasing fireworks.
It is time to be chased by ‘monks’ - think Klu Klux Klan figures - carrying fireworks; there are even incendiaries going off overhead and sparks fly everywhere.
Youngsters - wearing a typical uniform of hooded sweatshirt, baseball cap, and facemask, even gloves - have made sure they have been thoroughly soaked by the firemen and dance with danger.
The professionals carry fireworks, Catherine Wheels, several ‘toro de fuego’ - metal frames with a bull’s head and more fireworks. It is exciting, a little disturbing and just a tad odd.
At around 02.30, everyone gathers in the Plaza de la Constitución. Drums pound, the correfocs professionals lead mad dancing, and thousands of people jump for joy... all before a live band and disco.
Morning proper comes with a burst of more noise as fireworks announce the ‘wake up’ call.
For first timers there is always a feeling of almost disbelief together with a few questions about health and safety.