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Jaanipäev ('Jaan's Day') and the Kaali meteorite

FancyMancy

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Not to be confused with St John's Day (Estonia).

Jaanipäev or leedopäev ('Jaan's Day') is the longest-celebrated public holiday and one of the most important summer holidays in the Estonian folk calendar. It corresponds to the English Midsummer Day.

On jaaniõhtu (the night of jaanilaupäev, which is the night before jaanipäev) Estonians will gather with their families or at larger events to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing, drinking and eating, and lighting the bonfires, as has been the tradition for centuries. Jaanipäev is arguably the most-important holiday, more important than Christmas in the yearly calendar for Estonians.[1]

As Estonian National Open Air Museum describes it, "this is a time when nature is full of power and thousands of bonfires are set on fire throughout the country to celebrate the beginning of summer and ensure good luck".[2]

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Also called Leedopäev, Jaanipäev, Midsummer Day
Observed by Estonia
Begins 23rd June
Ends 24th June
Frequency Annually

Name
In traditional Estonian leedopäev, commonly known as jaanipäev (translated loosely to English as 'Jaan's day'), is called Midsummer Day in English, Juhannuspäivä or Ukko by the Finnish, Jāņu diena by the Latvians, and St John's Day by christians. There are several other less-known names for jaanipäev in Estonian, some of them are suvine pööripäev, suvepööripäev, püäripääv, päevakäänak, päiväkäänäk, päiväkäändjäne, päevapesa, pesapäev and suured päevad.

Beginning
It is said that the traditions of jaanipäev started with the fall of the Kaali meteorite around 4000 years ago.[3] Lighting bonfires to re-enact the falling of the meteorite when it lit the night is said to seem like the sun having rose again in the night.

Victory Day
Jaanipäev celebrations were merged with the celebration of võidupüha ('Victory Day') during the War of Independence when Estonian forces defeated the German troops on 23 June 1919. After this battle against Estonia's traditional oppressors, jaaniõhtu and the lighting of the traditional bonfires became linked with the ideals of independence and freedom. Since 1934, 23rd June is also national Victory Day of Estonia and both 23rd and 24th are holidays and flag days, when the blue-black-white tricolor is raised at sunrise. The Estonian flag is not lowered in the night between these two days.

The tradition before the Soviet occupation was for a bonfire to be lit by the Estonian President on the morning of võidupüha (23rd June). From this fire, the flame of independence was carried across the country to light the many bonfires. During the transition to the re-establishment of Estonia's de facto independence, Jaanipäev became an unofficial holiday, with many work places closing down. It once again became an official national holiday in 1992.

Traditions and rituals
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Swinging is a popular activity during Jaanipäev. People using a village swing in Anna village in 1993

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 and lighting the bonfires, as Estonians have done for centuries.

Some of the rituals of Jaanipäev have very strong folkloric roots. There was also an important place in spells and fire. The best-known ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and then 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.

Midsummer's Eve is important for lovers. Among Estonian folktales and literature there is the tale of two lovers, Koit (dawn) and Hämarik (dusk). These two lovers see each other only once per year and exchange the briefest of kisses on the shortest night of the year. Earth-bound lovers go into the forest looking for the flower of the fern which is said to bloom only on that night. Also on this night, single people can follow a detailed set of instructions involving different flowers to see whom they are going to marry. Jaanipäev marks a change in the farming year, specifically the break between the completion of spring sowing, summer hay-making and the hard work and activities related to do the day.

Christians
Since the arrival of Christianity by the crusaders, the day was named St John's Eve by the church to commemorate the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. As in the past, some Christians still try to change the pagan beliefs and rituals as they do their best to forcefully rename them, same with jaanipäev that contains lighting the bonfires and jumping over them, eating, drinking, singing and dancing all through the night, predicting the future and some other romantic traditions.
Wikipaedia
https://archive.is/zSInQ


Estonian beliefs and rituals carried on by jaanipäev
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Bonfire on jaaniõhtu in Estonia. Photo by the Estonian Open Air Museum.

Along with Christmas, jaaniõhtu (Midsummer Eve – 23 June) and jaanipäev (Midsummer Day, St John’s Day – 24 June) are the most-important holidays in the Estonian calendar – people around the country will gather with their families, or at larger events to celebrate with singing, dancing and lighting the bonfires, as Estonians have done for centuries.*

The short summers with brief nights hold special significance for Estonians. Jaaniõhtu and jaanipäev follow the longest day, 20-21 June of the year, or the summer solstice, when night seems to be non-existent.

Following Pagan rituals
Jaanipäev was celebrated long before the arrival of Christianity in Estonia, although the day was given its name by the crusaders. The arrival of Christianity, however, did not end the Pagan beliefs and fertility rituals surrounding this holiday.

In 1578, Balthasar Rüssow, one of the most important Estonian chroniclers, wrote in his Livonian Chronicle with some disgust 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.

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Jaaniõhtu (Midsummer Eve) being celebrated in Estonia with a bonfire. Photo by the Estonian Open Air Museum.

The jaanipäev celebrations were merged with the celebration of Võidupüha (Victory Day) after the War of Independence, when the Estonian forces defeated the German troops on 23 June 1919. After this battle against Estonia’s traditional oppressors, jaaniõhtu and the traditional lighting of bonfires became linked with the ideals of independence and freedom.

Folkloric roots
Traditionally, jaanipäev marked a change in the farming year, specifically the break between the completion of spring sowing and the hard work of summer hay-making. Hence, some of the rituals associated with Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Day have very deep folkloric roots.

The best-known 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.

vJ808ro.png

The best-known jaaniõhtu ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and jumping over it. This is seen as a way of guaranteeing prosperity and avoiding bad luck.

Midsummer’s Eve is also associated with romance. In Estonian fairy tales and literature, there is a tale of two lovers, Koit (dawn) and Hämarik (dusk). According to the tale, these two lovers see each other only once per year and exchange the briefest of kisses on the shortest night of the year.

Earth-bound lovers go into the forest looking for the fern flower which is said to bloom only on that night. Also on this night, single people can follow a detailed set of instructions to see whom they are going to marry.

Free spirit
Jaaniõhtu and jaanipäev were so dear to Estonians that even during the occupation, the Soviet Union made no attempt to stop the celebrations, even though it represented the nation’s free spirit. Jaanipäev, therefore, always reminded Estonians of their independence in the past, despite the Soviet attempts to eliminate such ideas.

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Jaaniõhtu (Midsummer Eve) celebration in Estonia. Photo by the Estonian Open Air Museum.

The tradition before the Soviet occupation, which has now been restored, was for a fire to be lit by the Estonian president on the morning of Victory Day. From this fire, the flame of independence was carried across the country to light the many bonfires. In 1992, following the restoration of the independence of Estonia, jaanipäev became an official national holiday.

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An Estonian family around a bonfire on jaaniõhtu. Photo by Aivar Ruukel.

On these days, people all around the country will gather with their families, or at larger events to celebrate this important day with singing, dancing, drinking, eating and lighting the bonfires as Estonians have done for centuries. Thousands of Estonian expats, meanwhile, usually celebrate it a week or two in advance – and those who can, travel to Estonia for the proper one.

Alternative perspective
Lennart Meri, a legendary writer and film director, and the Estonian president from 1992-2001, provided another perspective on jaanipäev in his book, Hõbevalge (Silverwhite, 1976).

Meri suggests the jaanipäev traditions re-enact the fall of the Kaali meteorite in Saaremaa. The meteorite’s fall is also said to be the inspiration for Nordic and Baltic mythological stories about the sun falling onto the earth. This idea suggests that the present-day bonfires and celebrations actually symbolise Estonia’s connection with its ancient past.

Read also:
Why do Estonians celebrate midsummer on 23 June?
and
Fire, flower crowns and fern blossoms: Midsummer night in Estonia explained

*This article was originally published on 23 June 2013 and lightly edited on 22 June 2017 and 23 June 2021.
estonianworld.com
https://archive.is/U2FF4


See Also
Kali Yuga, Satya Yuga, The "Demon" Kali and Goddess Kaali
Bonfire
 

Al Jilwah: Chapter IV

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