Jumping over bonfires and not eating pork

St. John’s day

Once the mid-June snow melts (this happened) all Estonians gather around a bonfire and start jumping over it and stuffing themselves with meat marinated in vinegar – this is St. John’s day.

St. John’s day has been celebrated in Estonia for centuries as a time of the year when the sowing season finishes and summer hay making will start. The day was named after John the Baptist by the crusaders. There are many pagan rituals connected with the holiday. The most famous one is, of course, jumping over the bonfire, which is meant to have purifying properties, but often ends in 2nd degree burns. David completed his integration into the Estonian society with his very successful leap over the raging fire.


Balthasar Russow wrote in his chronicles in 1578 about fornicating, dancing, drinking Estonians worshipping false gods with their sacrifices and jumping over the fire. He was upset when people didn’t go in the church, but stayed outside and lit fires. I think he needed to adapt to local culture.

Jaanipäev also holds significance for lovers. Koit (dawn) and Hämarik (dusk) are two lovers who can briefly meet once a year when the night is the shortest and exchange a short kiss. People go looking for the fern flower, which is only said to blossom on St. John’s night, and look for glow worms int the forest. Single girls have to collect nine different flowers, jump over nine fences, place those flowers under their pillow, and they will dream of their future husband. If you fail, kissing a frog may or may not help.

Me and my lover were not that romantic. We dressed in gloves, hats and coats for the pouring rain, jumped on our bikes and cycled to a friend’s house through the forest. While there we lit the fire, jumped over it, ate shaslik, drank very little cider and took off. We cycled back through the forest and graveyard where loads of candles had been lit.IMG_20140623_224456 copyAfter I had fallen off a plank road in the swamp and stepped in the stream, we reached Võru and lake Tamula. Võru city government had organised a village party for pensioners, which was later taken over by teenagers. As we felt young, we took our shaslik and stood around the braai dancing to old soviet tunes till 2am.

Food is growing everywhere

As you know our summers are very short. This means people go out of their way to make the most of their summers, so as is normal for older generation Estonians, they work double hard planting every vegetable known to man and spend their time taking care of said vegetables for the whole summer only to give their labour of love away to grandkids. I am the said grandkid. Today I got fresh rocket, lettuce, strawberries, potatoes, mint, dill (LOTS of dill), tarragon, spinach. I am bored of naming things.

I am so tired of eating meat, that I became a vegetarian. Yes, you read correctly. I, Katrin Winter, became a vegetarian. I have become one of them. It’s only been two days and will probably pass, but for now I cannot stand the sight of meat. Real first world problems going on here.

In other news 

It’s raining. IMG_20140623_170254IMG_20140623_165553David’s parents are arriving soon and we are taking them to the Song and Dance Celebration, which will be a very large dose of Estonian patriotism for them.

I shall tell you all about it soon.


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