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The Baltics in Midsummer mode

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icymist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-17-10 02:58 PM
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The Baltics in Midsummer mode
Midsummer or Jani in Latvian, Jaanipaev in Estonian and Jonines in Lithuanian is a traditionally pagan festivity marking the summer solstice on the shortest night of the year on June 23 - 24. John or Janis, Jaan or Jon is a deity of fertility. His day is celebrated as an end of the spring sowing season and beginning of the summer harvest.

St. Johns Eve (Jaaniohtu, also Jaanilaupaev) and St. Johns Day (Jaanipaev) are the most important days in the Estonian calendar, apart from Christmas. On Jaanihtu, 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.

Understandably, some of the rituals of Jaanipaev have very strong folkloric roots. The best-known Jaanik, or midsummer, ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and the 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.
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LiberalEsto Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-25-10 08:18 PM
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1. The higher you jump over the fire
the taller your flax will grow. Or so I've heard.

I just came back from spending 2 weeks in Estonia visiting relatives. Unfortunately I had to fly home before Jaanipaev, but I've celebrated it at bonfires many times over the years. Estos have all kinds of Jaani songs and dances, as well as holiday foods such as home-made cheese.

Part of the celebration includes going to the sauna and getting cleaned and purified.
Estonians gather young birch branches, tie them into small bundles, soak them in buckets of water and use them in the sauna to lightly whip themselves and their companions. This supposedly brings any impurities in the blood to the skin surface so they can be sweated out.

I've read that in Latvia and Lithuania, the sun goddess Saule is honored at Jani.
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