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2/10/2011
Lithuanian traditions:
St. John's Night

fern blossom

"Fern Blossom"
sculpture by K. Nelson

The time of midsummer festivals, celebrated by most pre-Christian cultures, closely matches St. John the Baptist's feastday, on June 24th of the Christian calendar. It is little wonder then that many of the pagan midsummer customs and beliefs persist on this special day even after the people's conversion to Christianity.

Because of its northern location, in Lithuania St. John's night is so short, that as soon as the last light of sunset disappears in the west, the sky in the east starts to brighten with the first signs of dawn. This night is believed to be special, filled with omens and magic. It is said that ferns bloom only at midnight on this night and whoever is lucky enough to find such a blossom will gain special powers: to understand the languages of birds and animals, to be able to foretell the future, to know where treasures are buried and many others.

Young and old alike go out on this night to look for fern blossoms. For the young this is a rare opportunity to romp around in the fields and woods at night. Many marriages result from encounters on this night. (Click here to read more traditions.)

St. John's night maiden

"St. John's-Night Maiden" wood carving by D. Šakalienė