Jāņi is a Latvian festival heldin the night from 23 June to 24 Juneto celebrate the summer solstice(Midsummer), the shortest night andlongest day of the year.The day of Līgo (23 June)and the day of Jāņi (24 June) arepublic holidays, and people usuallyspend them in the countryside.The festivals eve Jāņuvakars is held in the evening of 23June and goes on all through thenight Jāņu nakts, where people Līgo(sway) into the following day.
Jāņi is an ancient festival originally celebrated in honour of a Latvianpagan deity Jānis, referred to as a "Son of God" in some ancient Latvianfolksongs. Jānis is also traditionally the most common of Latvian malegiven names, everybody of the name Jānis holds a special honour on thisday.The festivals current date has shifted a few days from 21 June/22 Junewhen the summer solstice actually takes place due to its somewhatincongruous association with Saint John the Baptists feast day, which fallson 24 June. Still, traditions of Jāņi contain no reference to Christianity orany Christian symbolism.
Jāņi is thought to be thetime when the forces of nature areat their most powerful, and theboundaries between the physicaland spiritual worlds are thinnest.In the past, evil witches werebelieved to be riding around, sopeople decorated their houses andlands with rowan branches andthorns in order to protectthemselves from evil.In modern days othertraditional decorations are morepopular, including birch orsometimes oak branches andflowers as well as leaves, especiallyferns.Women wear wreathsmade from flowers; in rural areaslivestock is also decorated.
Another importantdetail is fire: A festival firemust be kept from sunsettill sunrise, and variouskinds of flaming lightsources are used; usuallythese are bonfires, whichtraditionally people jumpover to ensure prosperityand fertility.
Jāņi also is thought to be theperfect time to gather herbs, because itis believed that they then have magicalpowers on this day.Other practices of magic inJāņi vary from fortune-telling toensuring productivity of crops, as wellas livestock fertility.A well-known part of thiscelebration is searching for themythical fern flower, though somesuggest that the fern flower is a symbolof secret knowledge; today it is almostalways synonymous with falling in lovewith somebody at Līgo night andyoung couples traditionally search forthis flower.
Traditional food duringJāņi is a special type of cheese withcaraway seeds, made out of curd,and the traditional drink is beer.Many people make thecheese of Jāņi themselves; a fewalso make their own beer.
This presentation has been made for the Comenius Multilateral Project" Save the past, live the present, imagine the future" .This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.This presentation reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot beheld responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained there in.