Midsummer's Eve – when Dusk meets Dawn

Source: Visit Estonia

Midsummer's Eve – when Dusk meets Dawn

Midsummer or St. John's Day — Jaanipäev in Estonian — is one of the oldest and most important celebrations in Estonia. It's the time of year when day bleeds into night and there's barely any darkness in sight. Late June is the perfect time for a holiday outdoors in the forest or countryside.

Celebrating the summer solstice 

Due to its northern location, Estonian summer evenings are known as white nights. The sun sets late and rises early, making nighttime dusky rather than dark. Jaanipäev coincides with the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere – the summer solstice. Every year the solstice occurs around June 21st. Midsummer festivities in Estonia begin on the eve of June 23rd and conclude on June 24th. Estonians barely sleep during this bright period, sitting outside in the twilight, faces lit by the glow of bonfires.

White nights 

The legend goes that Dusk and Dawn are lovers who only meet once a year, on Midsummer's Eve. 

Photo by: Visit Estonia 

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. Although the celebration received a Christian name, pagan traditions are still alive and well today. Since 1919, Midsummer celebrations have overlapped with Victory Day celebrations on June 23rd, the day Estonian forces defeated German troops in the War of Independence.

Ancient superstitions and modern traditions

Midsummer's Eve is intertwined with many folk beliefs. Children stay up until dawn, while young lovers wander through the forest looking for a lucky fern flower said to bloom only on this night. If you are lucky enough to spot a glowworm, you may expect a great fortune. Young women looking to take a sneak peek into the future are advised to collect nine different types of flowers and place them under a pillow for the night, resulting in a predictive dream revealing a future spouse. The more adventurous boys and girls are known to jump over the bonfire in hopes of achieving prosperity or to swing as high as possible on the village's wooden swing. More modern traditions include singing, dancing, and the telling of old folk tales.

Nighttime barbecue 

Children take joy in staying up all night on Midsummer's Eve. 

Photo by: Mariann Liimal

Where to celebrate Midsummer's Eve

Today, Midsummer is a national holiday, giving city folks the chance to head to the countryside. People tend to spend the day with friends, barbecuing in their gardens or picnicking in the forest. However, the highlight of the year in many rural towns and villages is a community-wide Jaanipäev party featuring live music and massive bonfires. 

Here's our list of places to celebrate Midsummer's Eve all around Estonia. (For those marked with *, details are only available in Estonian.)

Tallinn and surrounding area

Central Estonia

Northeast Estonia

Tartu and surrounding area

Pärnu and surrounding area

South Estonia

The Islands

Happy Midsummer!

Last updated : 09.06.2022

In category: South Estonia, History & culture, Nature & Wildlife

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