Jāņi is arguably the biggest and most important Latvian celebration. It is held on 24th of June, and is a festival celebrating the summer solstice. On Jāņi people go to the countryside to sing, eat, drink together, and observe other long-standing traditions that are aimed at both improving fertility and warding off misfortunes and diseases. These rituals date back to centuries ago and are rooted in paganism and sun worship.
One of the most essential traditions is wreath making. For women the wreaths are made of different flowers and grasses, whereas for men – from oak leaves. There is a belief that wreaths made of different flowers and herbs prevent from diseases and help to protect oneself from ill-wishers. Due to their round shape, wreaths are symbols of the sun. The oak leaf wreaths also symbolise strength and virility. For the unmarried women there is a tradition to try to throw their wreaths on oak branches. The number of the failed attempts signify for how many years the woman will stay unmarried.
Another integral part of the celebration is burning bonfires. It is believed that fields shined on by the light of Jāņi bonfires are blessed with fertility. Therefore the fire should be burnt at the highest place in the landscape so that the light reaches as far as possible. In order to bring good luck and health for the next year, people gather around the bonfires and sing Jāņi songs. If one is brave enough and wants to attract extra good luck, you must leap over the bonfire.
The most emblematic food served on Jāņi is cheese, which due to its yellow colour and round shape symbolises the sun. The eating of cheese is also supposed to facilitate the production of cow milk in the next year. The drink of choice is beer, and its consumption is thought to improve the growth of barley.
If one wants to celebrate Jāņi properly, he/she must stay awake for the whole night,
because in the morning one has to walk through grass covered with dew drops, which is supposed to bring prosperity. Whereas women should wash their faces with dew drops to become more beautiful.
Tags: Jāņi , Traditions, Summer Solstice, Wreath, Bonfire ,Cheese
Question: The different rituals performed on Jāņi are supposed to:
- Bring good luck and help to prevent diseases
- Improve fertility of fields and animals
- All of the above