June is a month that anticipates summer vacations in Spain. It is a season of warmth, sun, and blossoming — and brings a few festivals and events with it just around the corner. Popular festivities in San Sebastián are the locals’ way of celebrating their identity and forgetting about troubles for a bit.
Warning: don’t ask locals from San Sebastián whether they like Athletic Club; that would be a great offense to passionate Real Sociedad supporters!
The Donosti Cup is on for its 16th edition and we can do nothing but smile at the youngsters’ excitement. Teams of boys and girls of tender ages come from all over the world to win the cup of Anoeta, our local football stadium. The rules are established by FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) and the Spanish Federation of Football. For a few days, children will have the chance of feeling just like professional football players. But it’s not all just about competition; it’s about sports uniting people of different cultures.
In the recent years, the Donosti Cup has become a huge event of sportsmanship with hundreds of teams visiting San Sebastián for an astonishing opening ceremony and tournament. If you happen to be one of those proud parents, we recommend having a few potes (drinks) and pintxos in Amara, a local neighbourhood with kind people and an authentic ambiance.
Date: July 2 – 8
San Juan Suak
We are eagerly awaiting The Bonfires of Saint John, a traditional festival celebrated all over the world that welcomes the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. On Saint John’s Eve, June 23rd, Basques celebrate the shortest night of the year with ancient traditions.
San Juan bonfires are especially well-known in Cataluña and Valencia. In other countries, in Europe particularly, there are other ethnic groups that have similar pagan celebrations of fire, which is believed to shoo away evil spirits. There’s an aspect of these celebrations that is common everywhere, and that’s the bonfires symbolising the power of the sun.
Although there’s a religious history behind it as well, the Basque celebrations of Saint John’s Eve are based in our pagan roots. It is a tradition of this night to dance to Basque melodies around bonfires. Similarly, objects and notes are thrown into the fire, representing everything we dislike or want to change in our lives, like textbooks or pictures of people we should forget. Jumping the flames is the last step to purify yourself from bad omens.
If you happen to be here on that date, you might see giant oak trees in the main squares of Basque towns and cities. They were originally planted every June 23rd to prevent electric storms and lightning, but it’s now a challenge for locals to climb them!
Join the party, enjoy the local music and drinks while staying warm by the fire, and watch Basque mythological characters dancing around it. Saint John’s Eve is not celebrated in one only place but all over the city, and it’s all a cheerful and festive atmosphere, with the air smelling of ash and burnt wood.
Date: June 23
Place: All over the city, there will be bonfires in all the beaches of San Sebastián!
Along with the film festival in September, the Heineken Jazzaldia is one of the biggest international festivals celebrated in San Sebastián. Amazingly, it is the oldest in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe, born in the 1960s. Today, is one of our most favourite times of the year as we can enjoy beautiful music in the streets of San Sebastián — some of them for free!
Be prepared to immerse yourself in waves of people and dance to the the impressive sounds of instruments and vocals, while relaxing in Zurriola with a pint of beer.
There will be multiple stages in the heart of the city. Plaza de la Trinidad, for instance, has seen the biggest jazz stars of all times perform in the narrow space of its square. Since 1994, the Jazz Festival gives an award to a high-calibre jazz artist who’s attended the edition. In 2016, Ellis Marsalis was granted this recognition. This American jazz musician grew up on the streets of New Orleans. In times of segregation, he affirmed that jazz music brought people together.