The Call

The Call

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Just what is Jaanipäev?  Every year, around the longest day of the year, in June, Estonians will celebrate Jaanipäev.  This word is translated as Jaan's Day or St. John's Day.  The practice has been around for many centuries.  The celebration includes gathering with friends and family to enjoy food and drink, singing songs of the homeland, maybe some folk dancing and of course, a bonfire.  Some sources say that the bonfires of Jaanipäev were to commemorate the Kaali meteorite some 4,000 years ago.  Over the years, this tradition has merged with Victory Day (June 23rd), which celebrated the defeat of German forces in the War of Independence in 1919.  This year, we organized for the YSA group, a Jaanipäev party at the farm house of a  dear friend here in Tallinn.  This is a big deal here.  It's bigger than Christmas.  Most all the stores are closed and there are very few people downtown.  During the buildup to Jaanipäev, the stores will advertise special meat for the festivities.  It is called šašlõkk (pronounced shashlek).  One store had 60 varieties.  Meat lovers and grillers would be in heaven.  We had 13 young folks show for the party and we all had a blast.  Elder Allred was the designated šašlõkk griller and Sister Allred was the determined hostess to make everything real nice.  After our meal, we went to the lower 40 and started the bonfire and, according to tradition, you must walk 3 times around the fire and then 3 times backwards around it to ward off bad luck for the year.  To not light a bonfire is to invite destruction of your house by fire.  Afterwards, we sang Estonian folk songs while our good friend accompanied us on the kannel, a stringed instrument.  After a few rounds of singing, we engaged in the folk dancing which was very entertaining.  Then came the jumping over the bonfire, a tradition that must be completed to ensure prosperity and good luck.  Yes, yours truly, also jumped over it (we all could use some of that good luck, right?).  This day is also important for lovers.  In Estonian literature, there is a tale of two lovers, Koit (dawn) and Hämarik (dusk), who could only see each other only on the shortest night of the year when dusk and dawn occur at nearly the same time and could only exchange the briefest of kisses.  It is customary for Estonians to seek out certain forest flowers (9 different kinds) and place them under their pillows hoping to dream of who they will marry some day.  After all of the traditions were observed, we engaged in s'more making with 4 different flavors of chocolate (it's a big deal here, the chocolate).  A fun time was had by all and as we headed home at 10:00 PM,  the sun was still in the sky, trying to linger a little more, shedding its light on a happy day.

Farm house with green everywhere

The line forms quickly for the šašlõkk

Many people brought side dishes

My helper from Spain

My helper from heaven

Lighting the fire

And the singing begins

Privy with moose antler

S'more fixin's

Flowers of the forest

I hope she dreams of me

A fine group with the fire

Close up.  Notice the traditional dress

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