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"Jaanipäev" ("Jaan's Day" in English) was celebrated long before the arrival of Christianity in Estonia, although the day was given its name by the crusaders. The day is still known by its many names as: leedopäev, suvine pööripäiv, suvepööripäev, püäripääv, päevakäänak, päiväkäänäk, päiväkäändjäne, päevapesa, pesapäev and suured päevad. The arrival of Christianity, however, did not end pagan beliefs and fertility rituals surrounding this holiday. In 1578, Balthasar Russow wrote in his Livonian Chronicle about Estonians who placed more importance on the festival than going to church. He complained about those who went to church, but did not enter, and instead spent their time lighting bonfires, drinking, dancing, singing and following pagan rituals. Midsummer marks a change in the farming year, specifically the break between the completion of spring sowing and the hard work of summer hay-making.
Understandably, some of the rituals of Jaanipäev have very strong folkloric roots. The best-known Jaanik, or midsummer, ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and jumping over it. This is seen as a way of guaranteeing prosperity and avoiding bad luck. Likewise, to not light the fire is to invite the destruction of your house by fire. The fire also frightened away mischievous spirits who avoided it at all costs, thus ensuring a good harvest. So, the bigger the fire, the further the mischievous spirits stayed away.
Estonians celebrate "Jaaniõhtu" on the eve of the Summer Solstice (June 23) with bonfires. On the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, old fishing boats may be burned in the large pyres set ablaze. On Jaaniõhtu, Estonians all around the country will gather with their families, or at larger events to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing, as Estonians have done for centuries. The celebrations that accompany Jaaniõhtu carry on usually through the night, they are the largest and most important of the year, and the traditions are almost identical to Finland (read under Finland) and similar to neighbors Latvia and Sweden (read under Sweden).
Jaanipäev is usually spent in a summer cottage, where people light bonfires, or at a festival, such as Pühajärve Jaanituli in Otepää.
Since 1934, June 23 is also national Victory Day of Estonia and both 23rd and 24th are holidays and flag days. The Estonian flag is not lowered in the night between these two days.
On the Faroe Islands, St. John's Eve (jóansøka) is generally not celebrated. However, on the southernmost island of Suðuroy it is observed by lighting a bonfire. Only one bonfire is lit on the island as one of the two biggest towns hosts the celebration alternately every other year.
The summer solstice was called Ukon juhla ("Ukko's celebration") after the Finnish god Ukko. After the celebrations were Christianized, the holiday became known as juhannus after John the Baptist (Finnish: Johannes Kastaja).
Since 1955, the holiday has always been on a Saturday (between June 20 and June 26). Earlier it was always on June 24. Many of the celebrations of midsummer take place on midsummer eve, when many workplaces are closed and shops may close their doors at noon.
In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires (Finnish kokko) are very common and are burned at lakesides and by the sea. Often branches from birch trees (koivu) are placed on both side of the front door to welcome visitors. Swedish-speaking Finns often celebrate by erecting a midsummer or maypole (Swedish midsommarstång, majstång). Some Finland Swedes call the holiday Johannes after the Finnish term juhannus – or more accurately after the Biblical John the Baptist (="Johannes Döparen" in Swedish).
In folk magic, midsummer was a very potent night and the time for many small rituals, mostly for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility. Will-o'-the-wisps were believed to appear at midsummer night, particularly to finders of the mythical "fern in bloom" and possessors of the "fern seed", marking a treasure. In the old days, maidens would use special charms and bend over a well, naked, in order to see their future husband’s reflection. In another tradition that continues still today, an unmarried woman collects seven different flowers and places them under her pillow to dream of her future husband.
An important feature of the midsummer in Finland is the white night and the midnight sun. Because of Finland's location spanning around the Arctic Circle the nights near the midsummer day are short or non-existent. This gives a great contrast to the darkness of the winter time. The temperature can vary between 0 °C and +30 °C, with an average of about 20 °C in the South.
Many Finns leave the cities for Midsummer and spend time in the countryside. Nowadays many spend a few days there, and some Finns take their whole vacation in a cottage. Rituals include bonfires, cookouts, a sauna and spending time together. Heavy drinking is also associated with the Finnish midsummer.
Many music festivals of all sizes are organized on the Midsummer weekend. It is also common to start summer holidays on Midsummer day. For many families the Midsummer is the time when they move to the countryside to their summer cottage by the sea or lake. Midsummer is also a Finnish Flag Day where the flag is hoisted at 6 pm on Midsummer's Eve and flown all night till 9 pm the following evening. Finnish Canadians in the New Finland district, Saskatchewan, Canada celebrate Juhannus.
In France, the Fête de Saint-Jean (feast of St John), traditionally celebrated with bonfires (le feu de Saint-Jean) that are reminiscent of Midsummer's pagan rituals, is a Catholic festivity in celebration of Saint John the Baptist. It takes place on June 24, on Midsummer day (St John's day). In certain French towns, a tall bonfire is built by the inhabitants in order to be lit on St John's Day. In the Vosges region and in the Southern part of Meurthe-et-Moselle, this huge bonfire is named chavande.
The day of sun solstice is called Sommersonnenwende in German. On June 20, 1653 the Nuremberg town council issued the following order: "Where experience herefore have shown, that after the old heathen use, on John's day in every year, in the country, as well in towns as villages, money and wood have been gathered by young folk, and there upon the so-called sonnenwendt or zimmet fire kindled, and thereat winebibbing, dancing about the said fire, leaping over the same, with burning of sundry herbs and flowers, and setting of brands from the said fire in the fields, and in many other ways all manner of superstitious work carried on — Therefore the Hon. Council of Nürnberg town neither can nor ought to forbear to do away with all such unbecoming superstition, paganism, and peril of fire on this coming day of St. John."
Bonfires are still a custom in many areas of Germany. People gather to watch the bonfire and celebrate solstice.
According to Eastern Orthodox tradition the eve of the day of the Nativity of John the Baptist is celebrated with festivals in many towns and villages, both in the mainland and in the Greek isles. Traditionally the midsummers celebration is called Klidonas (Κλήδονας) meaning sign or oracle, and was considered a time when unmarried girls would discover their potential mates through a ritual. It is also customary to this day to burn the Mayday wreaths that are used to decorate the doors of the houses for the previous two months, in large communal bonfires, accompanied by music, dancing and jumping over the flames. It takes place on May 30 and May 31.
On June 21 Hungarians celebrate "Saint Ivan's Night" (Szentiván-éj) (Iván derived from the Scandinavian form of Ivar, translated as Jovános, Ivános, Iván in Hungarian). The whole month of June was once called the Month of St. Ivan until the 19th century. Setting fires is a folklore tradition this night. Girls jumped over it, while boys watched the spectacle.
Most significant among the customs of the summer is lighting the fire of Midsummer Night (szentiváni tűzgyújtás) on the day of St. John (June 24), when the sun follows the highest course, when the nights are the shortest and the days the longest. The practice of venerating Saint John the Baptis developed in the Catholic Church during the 5th century, and at this time they put his name and day on June 24. The summer solstice was celebrated among most peoples, so the Hungarians may have known it even before the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin. Although the Arab historian Ibn Rusta speaks of the Hungarians' fire worshipping, so far there is no data that could connect it to this day. In the Middle Ages it was primarily an ecclesiastical festivity, but from the 16th century on the sources recall it as a folk custom. The most important episode of the custom is the lighting of the fire.
The custom survived longest and in the most complete form in the northwestern part of the linguistic region, where as late as the 1930s they still lit a Midsummer Night fire. The way of arranging the participants by age and by sex has suggested the possibility that these groups sang by answering each other, but there are hardly any remnants that appear to support this possibility. People jumped over the fire after they lit it. This practice is mentioned as early as the 16th century, although at that time in connection with a wedding; still, it is called "Midsummer Night fire". The purpose of jumping over the fire is partly to purify, partly because they believed that those whose jump was very successful would get married during the following carnival.
Tiregān (Persian: تیرگان) is one of ancient Iranian festival coinciding with the mid summer festivals, another midsummer festival is Gilaki Bal Nowrooz which is held in the north of Iran.
Bal Nowrooz, meaning ‘the fire of Nowrooz’, is the name of a festival celebrated on the first day of ‘Our Nowrooz’ and this is the first day of Daylaman New Year.
Lighting the fire, thanking God for his blessings and crops, and praying for the peace of the souls of the dead were parts of this ancient Iranian tradition. This ceremony coincides with harvesting in Gilan.
On the first day of ‘Our Nowrooz’, the newly wed couples who have married in the past year, are given white horses to ride up to the foot of the mountain. As the brides and grooms reach the mountain foot, a yellow cow is set free, as a sign of happiness and abundance for the new couples.
Many towns and cities have 'Midsummer Carnivals' with fairs, concerts and fireworks either on or on the weekend nearest to Midsummer. In rural spots particularly the northwest, bonfires are lit on hilltops. This tradition harks back to pagan times and is now associated with "St. John's Night". The Irish Environmental Protection Agency, after much initial upset in the west of Ireland, has an exemption for the burning of fires outdoors during midsummer night.
Traditionally the longest day of the year in Ireland falls on June 21.
In Italy there is the San Giovanni's day (Saint John).
The feast of Saint John the Baptist has been celebrated in Florence from medieval times, and certainly in the Renaissance, with festivals sometimes lasting three days from 21 to 24 June. Such celebrations are held nowadays in Cesena from June 21 to 24, also with a special street market.
Saint John the Baptist is the patron saint of Genoa, Florence and Turin where a fireworks display take place during the celebration on the river. In Turin Saint John's cult was also diffused since medieval times when the city stops to work for two days and people from the surroundings come to dance around the bonfire in the central square. Nowadays Saint John is the patron saint of Genoa, Florence and Turin and he was celebrated on June 24 which is a city public holiday.
Italian neopagans usually celebrates the Mid Summer with rites, dances and festivals all around the country.
In Jersey most of the former midsummer customs are largely ignored nowadays. The custom known as Les cônes d'la Saint Jean was observed as late as the 1970s – horns or conch shells were blown. Ringing the bachîn (a large brass preserving pan) at midsummer to frighten away evil spirits survived as a custom on some farms until the 1940s and has been revived as a folk performance in the 21st century.
In Latvia, Midsummer is called Jāņi (plural of Latvian name Jānis, which is equivalent to John) or Līgo svētki (svētki = festival). It is a national holiday celebrated from the night of June 23 through June 24 on a large scale by almost everyone in Latvia and by people of Latvian origin abroad. Celebrations consist of a lot of traditional and mostly pagan elements – eating, Jāņi cheese, drinking beer, baking pīrāgi, singing Latvian folk songs dedicated to Jāņi, burning bonfires to keep light all through the night and jumping over it, wearing wreaths of flowers (for women) and oak leaves (for men) together with modern commercial products and ideas. There are tens and hundreds of different beliefs and traditions all over Latvia on what should be done on that day for good harvest, for predicting the future, for attracting your future spouse etc. People decorate their houses and lands with birch or sometimes oak branches and flowers as well as leaves, especially fern. In rural areas livestock is also decorated. In modern days small oak branches with leaves are attached to the cars in Latvia during the festivity. Jāņi has been a strong aspect of Latvian culture throughout history, originating in pre-Christian Latvia as an ancient fertility cult.
In the western town of Kuldīga, revellers mark the holiday by running naked through the town at three in the morning. The event has taken place since 2000. Runners are rewarded with beer, and police are on hand in case any "puritans" attempt to interfere with the naked run.
Midsummer is commonly called John's Day (Joninės) in Lithuania, and is also known as Saint Jonas' Festival, Rasos (Dew Holiday), Kupolė, Midsummer Day and St. John's Day. It is celebrated in the night from the 23rd of June to the 24th of June and on the 24th June. The traditions include singing songs and dancing until the sun sets, telling tales, searching to find the magic fern blossom at midnight, jumping over bonfires, greeting the rising midsummer sun and washing the face with a morning dew, young girls float flower wreaths on the water of river or lake. These are customs brought from pagan culture and beliefs. The latter Christian tradition is based on the reverence of Saint John. Lithuanians with the names Jonas, Jonė, Janina receive many greetings from their family, relatives and friends.