Tuesday, June 23, 2009

san juan

Tonight we celebrated San Juan. According to an op-ed piece in yesterday's edition of La Razon (the daily newspaper from La Paz), the fiesta of San Juan is dedicated to St. John the Baptist ..."even though he didn't have much to do with fires."

A bonfire rages in the patio of Campus Manning.

Trusty Wikipedia states that: "The evening of June 23, St. John's Eve, is the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist. The Gospel of Luke states that John was born six months before Jesus, therefore the feast of John the Baptist falls on June 24th, six months before Christmas. This feast day is one of the very few saint's to mark the anniversary of the birth, rather than the death, of its namesake." 

The tradition here, on the eve of the feast day of St. John the Baptist, is to start fires. The idea, is to burn old belongings (like the clothing of the recently deceased) which, according to the newspaper article, is to show renewal; fire is a symbol of purification, it explained.  Here in the southern hemisphere, San Juan also coincides with the winter solstice--which is the longest and supposedly the coldest night of the year (even though many of us were wearing t-shirts).

San Juan has always been one of my favorite Bolivian festivities. Tonight the UAC-CP community gathered around the fire for fellowship and merriment.  Students roasted hot dogs (as is also the tradition) and marshmellows and danced around the fire. It's nearly midnight now and the chatter of San Juan festive-goers continues to drift up through my open window and into my room.

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