Midsummers Eve or St. John's Eve ("Jaanipäev") as it is known in Estonia, is one of the oldest and continuously popular local celebrations. Late June is the perfect time for a holiday in the blooming nature where days extend into nights, with barely any darkness at sight.
Midsummer celebrations start on the eve of 23 June and finish on 24 June. Originating in ancient folk traditions, St. John's Day marks the beginning of the season for haymaking. The day was celebrated long before the arrival of Christianity in Estonia and although the celebration received a Christian name, the pagan tradition is still alive and well today, hundreds of years later. These days, Midsummers Day is a national holiday giving city folks an opportunity to take a break in the country. Estonians traditionally start preparing for the Midsummers Day early on, collecting scrap wood for large bonfires held across the country. Children enjoy staying up until the rise of dawn, while young lovers wander through the forest looking for a lucky fern flower. The more adventurous boys and girls are known to take a jump over the bonfire in hopes of achieving prosperity, while the more moderate traditions include singing, dancing and telling old folk tales. While as recently as in the mid-20th century, St. John's Eve celebration used to be a time when families and friends gathered to party together, these days many people tend to spend the day with friends barbecuing in the garden or having a picnic in the wilderness. However, the tradition of village parties featuring bands playing around massive bonfires hasn't gone anywhere, proving to be the highlight event in many rural towns and villages.