It is five minutes to midnight on the eve of June 24, and hundreds of people line the shores of Vieques. It is La Noche de San Juan (St. John’s Night), a celebration observed by millions around the world. It is a Christian celebration of pagan origin. Catholics celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Puerto Rico, on June 24th. It’s believed that on the eve of this day the waters are blessed with the power to cure diseases, cleanse the soul, drive evil spirits away and bring good luck. At the stroke of midnight those by the shore turn themselves around and begin walking backwards into the water where they will dunk themselves three times in quick succession. The act of walking into the water backwards and dunking three times is symbolic of the act of baptism preached and practiced by St. John.
The pagan tradition celebrates the advent of the summer solstice on June 21. During the solstice many cultures set bonfires at midnight. It’s believed fire gives the sun the power needed for it to remain strong as the days begin to get shorter. In Puerto Rico and Vieques the summer solstice celebration and La Noche de San Juan have been combined into a summer family tradition. Generations of families, friends, and visitors flock to the beaches to partake in what has become a cultural ritual.
Be part of the tradition and experience an
unforgettable summer night!
La Noche de
San Juan –
St. John’s Night
Midnight between June 23 and June 24
Sunbay; alternatively, the Esperanza beach by the Malecón (between the piers)
Walk to the water’s edge around 11:55pm. Turn yourself around and walk backwards into the water. When the water is around your waist, stop and wait until midnight. At midnight, plunge yourself backwards into the water three times in quick succession.