All over spain there are celebrations to mark the shortest night of the year. One of the biggest events is in Alicante and as that's very close to home I went to have a look.
Originally items of houshold furniture were burned in the streets, old chairs and other junk, but, in some places the tradition has developed into a huge event. In Alicante there are neighbourhood associations that now club together to pay for the construction of their Hoguera. Some are true works of art. They will be burned at midnight tonight.
Whilst the main event may be the burning the streets are just alive with people, streets are closed off, there are "hospitality tents" all over the place, bands on every corner, disco music pumping out, thousands of locals and visitors everywhere.
I watched the mascletá (the sound fireworks designed to build up a deafening rythm) and watched the "folklore" parade where groups from all over Valencia and adjoining provinces send a representative float. I got quite animated when the float from Pinoso went by - I sort of waved and called to someone - a bit outgoing for me.
All this I got from the official programme but I met up with some Spanish pals and they weren't too bothered about watching stuff, they wanted to be involved. So we went down to the beach where groups of, mainly, young people sit around their own small Hogueras, well camp fires then, and laugh, talk and sing. A few people were drunk but they were the exception rather than the rule.
I was quite surprised when two of the young women I was with started to undress (that sort of undressing where women take off their bras underneath their shirts in a sort of Harry Houdini manouvre). Once in their bikinis they started to write out their wishes on little bits of heart shaped paper, grabbed a couple of apples and headed into the waves. The wishes and the apples go into the sea. If the wishes don't come back they will be granted (paper sinks) whilst if the fruit (which floats) is washed ashore that's a sign of good fortune, related in some pagan way to a good harvest.
Then we went on to a barraca, the sort of party headquarters for one of the groups that had built one of the big Hogueras in the town. Plenty to drink but, again, more laughing, talking and dancing than alcohol consumption.
A bit of a walk around the town to look at some of the bigger Hogueras, a couple of snacks, a final beer and then, because we're not young enough to party the night away we left. It was around 5am and there were still, literally, thousands of people on the streets.
The dustbin lorries and street cleaners had to mix it with the revellers