TALLINN - In a week, the streets of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius will
be eerily deserted as people throughout the region retreat to the countryside
for the night-long festival. The holiday is the largest annual celebration in
all three Baltic States, as they reconnect with their pagan roots. Traditions
include building a bonfire, dancing and singing traditional songs until dawn.
Revelers build crowns of leaves as flowers to wear through the night.
The holiday dates to pre-Christian times, but was renamed “St. John’s Day” after the arrival of Christianity in the 13th century.
The holiday is always held on the night of June 23 and is meant to mark the
longest day of the year - when the sun only sets for a few hours and the night
never gets much darker than twilight.
Traditional foods include Jani cheese, (usually lots of) beer and grilled meats. The holiday is known as Jaanipaev in Estonia, Jani in Latvia and Jonines in Lithuania. Midsummer Eve is a beautiful summer evening filled with mysticism, love, flaming bonfires and feelings, dancing and music, “swinging songs” and folk games. All of that can be experienced at the Estonian Open Air Museum on the night that is the most important holiday of the year for Estonians.
The procession to light Midsummer Eve’s bonfires will start at 19:00 at the
main gate. The dance stage will be open for anyone who wants to shake a wicked
leg and enjoy dance music. The visitors will see performances by Pritsu Brass,
the brass band of Tallinn fire department, and everyone’s favorite, the Untsakad
band. As midnight draws near, Twilight will offer his hand to Dawn, and the
lightest night of the year will be waiting.
The Kerase Stage will be given over to young folk musicians. The stage will see Estonian girls of the “Midrid” band and Finnish lads of the “Haaga Folk Machine” group. The Midsummer Eve bonfire will be ablaze, and there will be plenty of food and drink.
In between there will be games for visitors to show their strengths and
dexterity: weight lifting in the wake of Georg Lurich, climbing the “sweet
tree,” tug-of-war with sticks and “Gipsy wrestling.”
In 2013, Rocca al Mare summer manor is celebrating its 150th anniversary. It was in 1863 that baron Arthur Girard de Soucanton chose this beautiful place to build his summer retreat, and the manor surrounded by the romantic park became a favorite spot for culture-loving holidaymakers for decades. Helene Pond was named after Catarina Helene Claudine, the baron’s daughter. On Midsummer Eve this spot will be waiting for any loving couple who would like to paddle away from the festive revelry and make, or renew, vows of love on the quiet pond!
The video installation “A Story with no Beginning or End” (2011) to the music by Kulno Malva was created by artist Liisi Reitalu, to be performed during the year when Tallinn was the cultural capital of Europe and was projected on the roof of the Sassi-Jaani farmhouse on dark winter nights. This time the installation can be viewed in Kolu Inn, starting at 20:45, 21:45 and 22:45.
At Kolga Farm yard the youngest family members to have great fun and put their strength and dexterity to test, playing old Estonian folk games and participating in strength contests. A life-size windmill game table will also be set up for players to show how smart they are.
At Sepa Farm, swinging on the large village swing was one of the favorite pastimes of the young. To prevent anything bad from happening in the process, folks would bring gifts and “bribes” of butter, eggs and colorful ribbons to the swing and the swing-master boys. The housewife will tell the visitors about swinging traditions and teach them to weave a simple ribbon.
For Estonians, this is tied to Estonia’s victory during the War of Independence and the securing of a free and independent state. For Midsummer Day, there are the official public holidays, allowing the whole nation to prepare to party the entire night.