The evening of June 23, St John's Eve (also known as Midsummer because it falls on or near the
summer solstice), is the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of St John the Baptist. The Christian holy day is fixed at
June 24 but in some countries, festivities are celebrated the night before. Fire is the most typical element associated with
the Saint John's Eve celebration. In many countries, such as Croatia, bonfires are lit for people to jump over. In Estonia
and Finland, old fishing boats may be burnt in the large pyres set ablaze and people gather with their families, or at larger
events to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing. In Ireland, Bonfire Night is held on St. John's Eve,
when bonfires are lit on hilltops and many towns and cities have "Midsummer Carnivals", with fairs, concerts and
fireworks, around the same time. In Turin, Italy the city stops work for two days and people from the surroundings comes
to dance around the bonfire in the central square. In Portugal, street parties are held in many cities, towns and villages.
On June 23, Catholics all over Brazil light a big fire, symbolising a Catholic tale: During a conversation, John's mother,
Elizabeth, agreed to light a big fire to notify her cousin Mary (mother of Jesus) that she had given birth, that she might
get post-partum assistance from her cousin. In Puerto Rico, a night-long celebration is held and after sunset, people travel
to a beach or any accessible body of water (e.g. river, lake or even bathtub) and, at midnight, fall backwards into it --
three, seven or twelve times to cleanse the body from bad luck and give good luck for the following year. In Spain,
bonfires are lit and a set of firework displays usually takes place.
Midsummer celebrations held throughout the United
States are largely derived from the cultures of immigrants who arrived from various European nations since the 19th century:
In New York, Swedish Midsummer celebrations in Battery Park attracts some 3,000-5,000 people annually, which makes
it one of the city's largest celebrations. A Midsummer celebration which also honors Swedish heritage and history, has been
held annually on the sound in Throgs Neck since 1941.
The Seattle, Washington neighborhood of Fremont puts on a large Summer
Solstice Parade and Pageant, which for many years has controversially included painted naked cyclists. In St. Edwards Park
in Kenmore, the Skandia Folkdance Society hosts Midsommarfest, which includes a Scandinavian solstice pole.
celebration is held on Casper Mountain in Wyoming at Crimson Dawn park. Crimson Dawn is known in the area for the great stories
of mythical creatures and people that live on Casper Mountain. The celebration is attended by many people from the community,
and from around the country. A large bonfire is held and all are invited to throw a handful of red soil into the fire in
hopes that they get their wish granted.
Since 1974, Santa Barbara, California has hosted an annual Summer Solstice
celebration, typically on the weekend of or the weekend after the actual solstice. It includes a festival and parade.
Tucson, Arizona hosts Earthwalk Solstice celebration, with sister events in San Francisco, Jerusalem, and other communities
around the world. The event features a walk through a giant labyrinth, musicians, healers, ceremony, etc.
Upper Peninsula, the large number of Finnish and other northern European descendants celebrate Juhannus annually by holding
a beachfront bonfire on the Saturday following the first day of summer.
In Kaleva, Michigan Juhannus is celebrated
annually on or near the Summer Solstice by Gathering at the Village Roadside Park. Traditionally Pannukakku (Finnish Oven
Baked Pancake) and strawberry shortcake is enjoyed followed by a bonfire or kokko. Kaleva was founded in 1900 by Finnish
Geneva, Illinois, hosts a festival on the third Sunday of June featuring maypole-raising, dancing, and
presentation of an authentic Viking ship. Rockford, Illinois, Chicago, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Lindsborg, Kansas
also celebrate Midsummer.
And in New Orleans, St. John's Eve has traditionally been celebrated by voodoo practitioners.
Above is a description of "Voudou’s [voodoo] Day” activity along the lake between Bayou St. John and Lakeport
(West End) from the files of the N. O. Times newspaper. A June 23, 1884 edition of the New Orleans Times-Democrat reported
“Eve of St. John” activities; “The queen in attendance” as well as a “scene on the lake coast
from Spanish Fort to Milneburg was one which cannot easily be forgotten”. (Image from the
State Library of Louisiana. Text source: WIKI)