In the winter, the days in Estonia are short – you go to work when it’s dark, and you come home when it’s dark. That’s why St. John’s Day (“Jaanipäev” in Estonian), the longest day of the year, is so special. During this day, the sun almost doesn't set at all. The other special and mystical thing about St. John’s Day is that it always rains that day, with no exceptions. So, trust me when I say, spending a St. John’s Day in Estonia is a really magical experience.
St. John’s Day is being celebrated on the eve of June 23rd, and celebration finishes on June 24th. On that night, none of the Estonians sits at home close to their TV, and almost everyone stays up until the dawn by a bonfire with their friends, eating, singing, and having fun.
St. John’s Day is not just about sitting by the bonfire. It usually contains a lot of activities that bring good luck for the rest of your year. Young girls, who want to peek into their future and see who will be their loved one, collect nine different types of flowers and put them under their pillows. Then, the legend says that they will see their future husband in their dreams. Other Estonians wander in the forests looking for a lucky fern flower that blooms only on this night and try to find a glowworm that brings great fortune and happiness. Younger and adventurous folks jump over the bonfire for good luck, or sing, dance, and tell old folk stories.
To take part in St. John’s Days festivities, you don’t need to look far, the possibilities are everywhere. For a romantic seaside bonfire, go to Viimsi Open Air Museum that is located on a romantic coast. The museum lets you take a peek in the life of ancient coastal folk. You can walk by the sea, sit on the rocks, look at the sun setting in the sea, or just enjoy the happy company of people dancing and having fun.
For more traditional St. John’s Day festivities, go to the Estonian Open Air Museum. This huge museum has a lot of old farm buildings, windmills, chapels, and a village school. The staff does its best to recreate that old feeling, with costumes and traditional foods in the tavern. During the St. John’s Day, they light bonfires, organize many performances, and play games, offering a night full of activities.
So, if you happen to be in Estonia during St. John’s Day, make sure to find the bonfire. I don’t want to scare you, but the legends say that if you don’t go to the bonfire, it will bring you misfortune. So, it is only advised to spend magical St. John’s Day in Estonia, acquainting the culture by the bonfire.
Cover picture © Credit to: iStock/oneinchpunch
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