Estival festival in sunny Spain
Carboneras, Prov. de Almería, España -- 'Estival' means summer, right? Anyway, Tuesday was the longest day in the year, so yesterday, June 23, had to be the second longest. Thus the sun was bright as we frolicked on the beach until nearly 8 p.m., when we began thinking it might be a good idea to go home (the apartment we´re renting one block inland from the beach) to fix some dinner. And we saw Isabel, our landlady, gathering chunks of wood from one of the many nearby construction sites. (This little town is going through apartment construction boom times.) You going to start a bonfire? I shouted to her. Yes, indeed. Come on down (this all in Andalusian Spanish). Chorizos, morcillas...

It was still a long time till dark, and we weren't sure Isabel had put in a big enough stock of sausages for a couple of unexpected guests, so we fixed a big omelet and ate before mosying down to the beach around 9, while it was still sunny. That's when we began to get some idea of what was up. Parties up and down the beach had piled scrap wood (a favorite item was the big pine palettes designed to support construction materials). Our group was Isabel, her husband Simón the sailor man, their parents, their children, their children's children, and us -- temporarily part of the family. Other groups were all young guys, or smaller families, and so on. It was the night of San Juan, that is, San Juan Bautista, St. John the Baptist, so what everybody was supposed to do was build a big fire (to frighten away the evil spirits? to burn the past year's sins? Nobody knew what it was supposed to mean, only what they were supposed to do). The next thing was to wait until midnight, when somebody would fire off a loud fireworks missile as the signal, and everybody would plunge into the water. (We did that, too.) That part made a certain skewed kind of sense: You have to plunge into the water if you're honoring John the Baptist. But somehow I suspect that the whole rite is way, way pre-Christian, an ancient celebration of the summer solstice.

What the sausages have to do with it I'm not certain. I was just sorry that, to accompany the chorizo, morcilla and chuletas that just kept coming (grilled on a barbecue, not on the immense bonfire), I hadn't brought any piccolos to roast. That way we could have enjoyed Peter Schickele's famous Mediterranean flute fries.

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