Midsummer’s Day – known as Jannipäev – is the beginning of Estonia’s White Nights celebrations and is one of the country’s most important days of the year. As daylight extends into the night, Jannipäev marks this phenomenon, with Estonians celebrating through the night from 23 June, continuing until dawn the following day.

Estonians gather with their families, or at larger events, to celebrate midsummer with singing and dancing, as they have done for centuries. Most will not sleep during this period while they enjoy sitting around large bonfires in villages or on the beaches, with friends and family enjoying the illuminated night sky. Visitors are invited enjoy the community celebrations during this period, by dancing at a village bonfire and joining in the night-long festivities.

The more adventurous will jump over the large bonfires, as it is said to bring them prosperity. Likewise, to not light the fire is said to invite the destruction of your house by fire. According to tradition, the bonfire also frightens away spirits ensuring a good harvest as the bigger the fire, the further the spirits stayed away.

Stemming from ancient traditions when the day marked the beginning of haymaking season, many of the Jannipäev celebrations are centred on folk beliefs. An Estonian fairy tale depicts the story of two lovers, Koit (dawn) and Hämarik (dusk), who only meet once a year on Midsummer’s Eve and exchange the briefest of kisses on the shortest night of the year. More conventional traditions for visitors to get involved in include singing and dancing to the bands playing and telling each other old folk tales.

Today, Jannipäev is an Estonian national holiday, which sees people leaving the cities and heading to the countryside with friends and family. People spend the time celebrating nature, by dining alfresco, either with a barbecue in their gardens or a picnic in the wild, and is why the holiday is an annual highlight in many rural areas. Spend Midsummer enjoying an evening on the beach, staying up for the night by one of the many bonfires.

Just a few days after Midsummer, the Seto Folk Festival takes place. Running from the 25 to 26 June, this festival brings together travel and music lovers from all over the country, as they enjoy food, music, beer, and crafts from local vendors. A visit to Estonia during this week is a unique opportunity to experience Estonia like a local, by experiencing one of the country’s centuries-old traditions, alongside the unforgettable White Nights.


For further information on Visit Estonia: www.visitestonia.com/en. Main image: White Nights in Tallinn – Andrea Forlani.

Advertisement