Saint Jonas’ Festival, also known as Rasa (Dew Holiday), Joninės, Kupolė, Midsummer Day or Saint John’s Day is a midsummer folk festival celebrated on 24 June all around Lithuania. While midsummer day is celebrated throughout Europe, many Lithuanians have a particularly lively agenda on this day.
The traditions include singing songs and dancing until the sun sets, telling tales, searching to find the magic fern blossom at midnight, jumping over bonfires, greeting the rising midsummer sun and washing the face with a morning dew, young girls float flower wreaths on the water of river or lake.
For thousands of years, Balts, the ancestors of the Lithuanians, have celebrated the summer solstice (Rasa to the Lithuanians) by offering sacrifices to the pagan gods, and priestesses light the altar fire. This tradition still continues to this day.
You could spend a month at a health resort or opt instead for one night in Lithuania to heal all your ailments, take 20 years off your appearance and reveal your future. How is this possible, you say? On the night of June 24th, everything is possible. It’s like Christmas, only in summer.
Nature was worshipped in Lithuania for centuries. Before the country became Christianised, Lithuanians were pagans who praised and venerated nature. They believed in nature deities because they were wholly dependent on nature and its whims.
It’s said that when the Teutonic Knights came to Lithuania in the 13th century, they were frightened to enter forests even in the daytime. They believed that the forests were swarming with devils and demons that could grab passers-by and carry them off, never to be seen again. Many legends were told about Lithuanian customs and the local reverence for nature. Newcomers believed that the health, beauty and bravery of Lithuanian people were gifts from the wondrous and generous nature of Lithuania.
Times have changed, however, and now we can share all the wonders of nature with you, good traveller. All you need to do is come to Lithuania on June 23rd and join us for an exceptional midsummer celebration. Let us put it simply: you could spend a month at a health resort or opt instead for one night in Lithuania to heal all your ailments, take 20 years off your appearance and reveal your future. How is this possible, you say? On this night, everything is possible. It’s like Christmas, only in summer.
It’s a magical night that all Lithuanians wait impatiently for just as their ancestors did – the shortest night of the year, the sun’s victory against night and darkness. On this night, vegetation seems more lush and luxuriant than ever, with every single tiny plant reaching maturity, ready to create new life. It’s a celebration of rebirth for nature and every living creature.
People named Jonas and Janina (John and Jane) celebrate their name day on Joninės. Many come to Jonava, a town in central Lithuania which is titled to be the capital of Joninės.
Mystical healing rituals
As you arrive at the festivities, you must first walk through the special gates of Kupolės, which are decorated with herbs. Walking through the gates is a symbol of rebirth, and as you pass, you might be asked to dance or sing a song.
Unmarried girls must make a wreath from nine or twelve different herbs before midnight – it’s not only a traditional accessory, but also a mystical charm to draw the attention of your true love. The wreath is later set afloat on a river, and the faster the current carries it, the sooner the girl will get married.
One of the main rituals is the lighting of the fire. The fire is lit on a high hill at dusk and kept burning all through the night until dawn. It’s believed that the lighter the fields are, the greater the harvest will be. Another important custom is jumping over the fire of Joninės, as jumping guarantees good health and cleanses you of your sins. So it’s essential to jump over the fire, but wait until it dies down of course! If you jump holding hands with your loved one, you’ll get married the same year.