Happy St. John’s Day

As you may know, we at BCC are big fans of the liturgical calendar. So I wanted to give a big shout-out to St. John’s Day, or as it is known in Finnish, Juhannus. It is celebrated here this year on the 21st, the Saturday closest to the June equinox. For, as you may already know, St. John’s Day is basically the celebration of Midsummer, the longest day of the year.

In Finland, Juhannus is arguably the second most important holiday after Christmas, and is almost entirely non-commercial. We head out to the countryside, spend the midsummer’s eve by a lake, decorating the cottage with birch branches and flowers, singing (and sometimes dancing), cooking sausages and burning bonfires, followed by a late-night sauna. (I’m posting this days early because I’ll be in the wilderness for the weekend.) The idea is to ritually take contact with nature in the company of your family on one of the longest days of the year. And there is no mistaking the length of the days: while the sun does set for a few hours a night this far south, it is easily light enough to read outside all night.

There is nothing Christian perceivably about Juhannus, and there doesn’t seem to be any need to put the John back in St. John’s Day. As anyone will guess, the rituals of the day are pre-Christian, to use a popular euphemism. But I think they’re lovely. It is an official, store-closing recognition of the fineness of summer, to give thanks for the light and whatever warmth can be derived from it: and to take a deep breath before the darkness of winter reclaims the land and its inhabitants.

Happy St. John’s Day.

Comments

  1. Steve Evans says:

    Happy Juhannus! Light a big ukko-kokko for BCC.

  2. Norbert says:

    BTW, the Masons seem to be keen on it as well.

  3. Naked saunas for Midsummer’s Eve? Damn. I’m coming to Finland a month or two too late this year.

  4. S.P. Bailey says:

    Cool post. I have good memories of the Festas Juninas in northeastern Brazil. Bonfires in the streets. Traditional costumes, music, and dancing. And lots of odd corn dishes. My favorite was canjica: corn in coconut milk with cinnamon and sugar. The locals claimed the bonfires commemorated a tradition that fires guided John the Baptist through the wilderness. I suspected they were baptizing a pre-Christian ritual.

  5. blessed be, Norbert.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    I love this kind of stuff. (I was completely unfamiliar with this one.) And any celebration that involves sausages gets my vote!

  7. Happy Midsummer, indeed! May your dreams be pleasant…

  8. St. John’s is really different here, since we have almost 12 hours of day and night all year long but my favorite is the food. In honor of John, the beheaded, they make these huge head shaped rice balls with a chicken bone in the middle (John’s neck?) an olive and a half a boiled egg, so we celebrate by eating John’s head. They’re pretty good too. They’re called Juanes.

  9. Do they do Walpurgis night in Finland, too? Seems like the same procedures, but on the last night of April. I’ve been trying to celebrate W-night around southern California here for a few years now, but can never get family or friends too interested.

  10. Wow, Norbert that looks like so much fun! I really miss the wilderness in my suburban academic life, and I’m now thinking very longingly of Finland.

    Have a great time!

  11. Steve Evans, I’ve heard lawyers get together for something similar, like this

  12. We are talking about John the Baptist, right? The feast day for John the Divine is December 27, my birthday. In Quebec, June 24th is celebrated each year and has often had political overtones. I found 27 various other St. Johns on the liturgical calendar.

  13. Incidentally, St. Norbert’s feast day was celebrated two days ago.

  14. I meant two weeks ago.

  15. Peter LLC says:

    A few years ago we had a ward activity in celebration of Sommersonnenwende, complete with bonfire.

  16. #8 – “In honor of John, the beheaded, they make these huge head shaped rice balls with a chicken bone in the middle (John’s neck?) an olive and a half a boiled egg, so we celebrate by eating John’s head.”

    People are fascinating.

  17. I just want to say that I fully support the concept of St. John’s day and believe it should be celebrated more often.

  18. Mark B. says:

    Good luck figuring out how to have more than one summer solstice a year, John C.

  19. Mark IV says:

    Northern and Southern hemispheres, maybe?

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