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St John's Day
Estonia

St John's Day 2017 and 2018

St John’s Day in Estonia is the second most important holiday celebrated in the country. Following only Christmas, St John’s Day is celebrated by everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or beliefs.

YearDateDayHoliday
201724 JunSatSt John's Day
201824 JunSunSt John's Day

Known in other areas of the world as Midsummers Eve and the Summer Solstice, St John’s Day is the Christian version of this holiday in Estonia. The celebration of Midsummers Eve and the Summer Solstice can be traced back through all the recorded history of Estonia. The name was changed to St John’s Day when Christianity came into the area.

The holiday is a two day celebration, beginning on the night of June 23rd and lasting throughout the day on the 24th of June. For Estonians, this holiday is also a double celebration. June 23rd is also the nationally celebrated Victory Day holiday. Celebrations for Victory Day are conducted during the day on the 23rd, and then that evening St John’s Day celebrations begin.

Customs and Traditions

It is the belief of Estonians that a bonfire must be lit on Midsummers Eve to ward off evil spirits for the coming year. The bonfire represents a “cleaning” of the previous year and is also supposed to being good luck for the future harvest.

While the bonfires are lit, someone from each house jumps over the fire. Since the fires are large, it usually requires the use of a large stick to help them get over the fire. Jumping over the fire is thought to bring the ultimate good fortune to the family.

St John’s Day is also thought to be a day for romance. There is an ancient legend that states that this is the only day of the year that sunlight and darkness can kiss. A flower, thought to only bloom on this night, is sought in the forest by young lovers in an effort to find the perfect companion for their lives.

Even the president of the country joins in on the celebration of Midsummers Eve. On the night of the 23rd, to officially start the celebrations, the president will light a bonfire in the capital to officially start the celebration of St John’s Day .

National Holiday

In 1992, St John’s Day was re-established as a national holiday. Prior to that date it was still customary for businesses to close and for celebrations to take place. During the interim when Russia was governing the area, St John’s Day was not recognised as an official holiday.

Because of the two day celebration, most businesses close for these two dates. It is unknown if it is mandatory to pay employees for these holidays at this time. Government offices and banks are also closed for the Victory day/St John’s Day celebrations.

On St John’s Day itself, after the bonfires are put out and people have awoken from a long night of celebrating, people continue the celebration with large meals, dancing and musical celebrations. Much of the celebrations on St. John’s day reflect the ancient celebration rituals with this holiday instead of Christianity based celebrations. However, church services are offered and often attended on this day.