Midsummer (June 23 - 24) may or may not be the biggest holiday on the Baltic calendar (Christmas is still holding its own), but it place in the national psyche of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is definitely unmatched (see related article page 16). In all of these countries, the day is traditionally celebrated with friends and family at bonfires in the countryside. This presents the problem of planning, especially for foreigners. They’re more likely to be stuck for places to celebrate the shortest night of the year, since they usually don’t have country-dwelling relatives, to say nothing of tents and sleeping bags.
To give our readers some options, The Baltic Times has put together an overview of organized Midsummer activities throughout the region.
In Estonia, Midsummer is known as Jaanipaev (St John’s Day). For those living in Tallinn who aren’t lucky enough to have country-dwelling friends, there are still events in the cities to help celebrate the nation’s favorite holiday.
The biggest public party can be found at the Estonian Open Air Museum in Rocca Al Mare, a 20 minute trolley bus ride from central Tallinn. Last year almost 8,000 people attended, something that surprised even the organizers.
“This party is very nostalgic. If you have guests from foreign lands, you can show them how Estonia celebrates,” said Maarja Kouts, project coordinator of the museum’s Jaanipaev event.
There will be four different themed areas across the museum’s quaint and grassy grounds, each giving a taste of Jaanipaev during eras of history.
The Czarist period, when Estonia was ruled by imperial Russia, will be recreated with music from the folk band Leigarid.
Nearby, the first period of Estonia’s independence – often remembered as a time of prosperity and cultural development – will be celebrated with traditional “fancy” food, and re-enactments of characters from famous pieces of Estonian literature.
The Soviet period will also be represented in a slightly controversial way. Visitors can participate in Pioneer games, while several uniformed military policemen will be on hand “keeping things in order,” Kouts explained.
Entry costs 150 kroons (9.58 euros) for adults, 100 kroons for students, and 350 kroons for a family ticket. The party starts at 7pm and ends at 12pm.
Last year visitors reported difficulties getting back into Tallinn, with long taxi queues and exorbitant rates. To avoid getting stuck, leave the party a few minutes early and take the last trolleybus from the Zoo stop at 11:45 p.m, or the last bus from the same stop at 11:57 p.m..
A public party will also be held in Tartu, with a bonfire at the National Museum in Raadi. Tartu’s Jaanipaev could well claim to be the country’s official event – after all, their bonfire will be lit by the president.
But for something really unique, head to Suure-Jaani in Viljandimaa county on June 23 for a midnight concert on a swamp island.
The Suure-Jaani music festival celebrates the work of composers Eugen and Artur Kapp, who wrote classical scores and operas. Buses will collect visitors at 12:30 a.m. from the central square of the town and deliver them to the Hupassare swamp park. From there, it’s a 1km stroll across a boardwalk to the island.
Guests are asked to bring warm clothing, a flashlight, something to sit on and a thermos of hot tea. Head to http://www.concert.ee/ for more information.