Bonfires And Barbecues

It was quiet in the village yesterday. Those who didn’t have to go off to work were taking things gently having been up most if not all of the night before. Another fiesta, that of St John the Baptist. There are only two people whose birth is celebrated in the Christian calendar; Jesus, on 25th December, and St John the Baptist on 24th June. Of course, there is no historical evidence to validate either of these dates, and it may seem strange that they fall almost exactly six months apart. The Catholic Church has always been particularly adept at commandeering suitable pagan celebrations and recasting them to suit its own purposes in bringing people into the circle of the faithful. Two of the biggest pagan festivals occurred on the solstices (roughly 21st December and 21st June) and lo and behold we have birthdays to celebrate at each of these points. The Feast of St John (who, incidentally is the patron saint of Cataluña0 begins on the evening before. Depending on where you live, the tradition is to gather on the beach, at the lakeside or on the river bank. There you build and light your bonfire - or your barbecue, if you prefer, and party your way through to midnight, at which moment it is considered enormous good luck to dip at least a toe into the water as the Feast of the Saint arrives; the more adventurous (or perhaps those in greater need of luck) plunge fully clothed into the water, swimming and splashing about. Another source of good fortune, but one mainly confined to the young, is to leap over the bonfire, which again has a pagan ring about it to me.

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