Name: Emily Southmayd
School: The Pennsylavnia State University
program Language and Culture
Last night in Mallorca was "La Noche de San Juan", which is a festival-type night that celebrates the summer solstice and the shortest night of the year. It's hard to explain, and I still don't fully understand the details behind it, but it's basically a night of fire.
We went down to the Cathedral where there were SO many people of all ages and more fireworks and sparklers than I have ever seen. There were drummers and people were dancing everywhere. Several people were dressed as demons carrying flaming sticks and sparklers into the crowds (so scary in my opinion but others were embracing it). People who were far braver than any of us Americans would run towards the sparklers and jump and dance around them and jump over the flames, supposedly cleansing their spirits, while we all ran in the opposite direction when they came towards us, trying to cover our heads and arms to avoid the falling ashes. At different points, fireworks would suddenly be set off directly over our heads...it was incredible. I have never been that close to fireworks before-and probably for good reason, it can't be very safe, but here they don't seem too concerned.
Afterwards, walked down to the beach, where the celebrations were continuing with bonfires and more camaraderie. Some were swimming in the sea and others had pitched tents and would be spending the night on the beach. While we wouldn't be sleeping on the sand for the night, a few of us did take a little dip in the Mediterranean (so warm at night might I add). Then, as part of another Noche de San Juan tradition, we wrote down our regrets for the year passed and our hopes for the year ahead on pieces of paper. We dug a hole and there we burned our regrets. Then, after soaking our papers of wishes in the sea, we threw them on top of the burnt-out regrets and buried them all in the pit. It was really a fun way to reflect on the year and participate in this new culture.
There were moments during the night, especially during the fireworks as I was seeing sparks in all directions, watching the demons run around with their torches, and listening to the incredible drum music when I thought, "How is this allowed?" I knew in the US that we, the public, would never be allowed with hundreds of feet of these explosives. Imagine the lawsuits! Because people do get minor burns, and several of my friends have little holes in their clothing from the falling ashes. Never ever in America would this be possible. So why here?
And then it dawned on me..
Why wouldn't it be allowed? Who in this world decides what is and isn't right? And where it is and isn't right? I've always been one to follow the rules. I think I know what's right and wrong, but then again, it's only what I've been told that obey. My parents, my teachers, the government--with laws and whatnot--they're the ones who have always guided my obedience. But here I am, in a different country, and everything is tilted on its side. Things that I've always just regarded as set in stone are suddenly not so black and white. The world is wide open, and we can question how life should be lived. If people want to light sparklers and dance around the flames at their own risk, why shouldn't they? If it is what they believe in and what they want to do, who is it harming?
So anyway there's my big epiphany for the week. It was just a really eye opening realization for me, and it may be one of the biggest lessons I take back from my whole study abroad experience. The whole night, aside from being fun and insane and scary and exciting all at once, was an incredible way to experience even more of the amazing Spanish and Mallorcan culture. Definitely una noche que no será olvidado :)
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