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

How to celebrate Jaanipäev in Estonia

Celebrating Midsummer in Estonia is primarily a friends-and-family affair. You'll notice Tallinn is strangely quiet as locals flock to the countryside for the holiday, often adding a day or two before or after for a longer getaway. If they don't have a summer house outside of the city, many Estonians will rent homes, apartments, camper vans, or tents with their families or groups of friends. Accommodations tend to book up well in advance, so plan ahead!

If you can't get to the forest for Midsummer, you can still party like a local at traditional celebrations and concerts around the country. Here are a few options, though you may find more events advertised closer to the date.

Where to celebrate Midsummer in Estonia

Last updated : 05.06.2023

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