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  • Writer's pictureTrue Linen

Midsummer Day Festival - Jonines - St.John's Day

Have you managed to celebrate the longest day of the year? Would you like to know how it's celebrated in Northern Hemisphere, in such countries like Sweden and Lithuania?

Celebrations of the summer solstice date back to Lithuania's pre-Christian history. Back then, the festival would be called Kupoles - after herbs that would be ritualistically collected on the day - or Rasos, literally, the Dew Festival. It is celebrated on the longest day of the year, the 23rd June.

On other hand, in Sweden, the Midsummer celebration is held on the Friday, between June 19 and June 25 and is a time for outdoor gatherings, singing, dancing and indulging in traditional food. One of the most iconic symbols of Midsummer is the maypole. This tall wooden pole, often adorned with birch leaves and wildflowers, becomes the centrepiece of the festivities and is a real icon of Swedish culture.

Unmarried women would use charms to predict when they would get married. They'd make garlands of flowers and herbs and throw them over their heads onto tree branches or float them in a lake (if two wreaths stick together, wedding bells are expected within a year).

A search for the fern flower was an important and more practical ritual to actually make it happen. According to old beliefs, ferns only bloom on St.John's Eve, so young people in pairs would go to the forest at night to look for it. They wouldn't probably find it, but not for the lack of trying.

Bonfires would be lit on the highest spot of a village over the night, with people dancing around them or jumping over fire - again, in couples.

With the advent of Christianity, Rasos came to be identified with the Feast of Saint John the Baptist and was renamed Jonines. The importance of Jonines grew in the twentieth century with a push to deepen the Lithuanian national identity. Pagan revival movements attempted to reconstruct old traditions of celebrating Rasos.

Today, biggest Jonines celebrations are held in Kernave, Lithuania, with big bonfires, garlands and charms.

People named Jonas and Janina (John and Jane) celebrate their name day on Jonines. Many come to Jonava, a town in central Lithuania which is titled to be the capital of Jonines.

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