Since Valencia is on the coast of Spain, a number of traditions have emerged to help remind the Valencian community of its oceanic origins. Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of seafarers, is celebrated in late June, and is celebrated on the beach with bonfires, fireworks, and huge crowds of people. On some parts of the beach, it’s quite a tranquil celebration, and very pleasant to attend. There are families who bring portable tables and chairs, cooking over the fire and enjoying the warm summer evening. A small mercadillo emerges, with vendors selling all sorts of weird things, from purses to clothes to food. Occasionally, fireworks will go off to celebrate the day, and from the beach you can watch the fireworks in nearby cities, too. The beach here is huge, with plenty of space for people to spread out and enjoy the event.

There is a bit of a darker side to this celebration as well. Parts of the beach get exceedingly crowded, filled with young people drinking way too much and partying way too hard. This year, a young man was killed at around 3:15 AM in the area of the more intense parties. Even though there were multiple police on hand and various medical stations had been set up to deal with burns, brawls, and other problems, the sheer mass of people prevented rapid response to his injuries.

While I was glad that I got to see the spectacle, I am also glad that I left well before the parties turned to stupidity and craziness. What has been a joyful celebration in the past was marred by a senseless tragedy. For me, one time was enough.

Gentle readers, please forgive the quality of the pictures. As I have noted before, my camera does not manage low-light conditions well… and if Santa reads my blog, perhaps he will consider getting me a new super-duper camera next Christmas.

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