St. John's Day

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The Birth of John the Baptist , Lorenzo Veneziano (around 1356)

The St. John's (also Midsummer , Midsummer and Nativity of St John the Baptist ) is the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist on June 24. It is closely related to the summer solstice that takes place between June 20 and 22 . The St. John's Night is the night of St. John, from 23 to 24 June.

The day is also linked to festivals in connection with the summer solstice and customs such as the Midsummer bonfire , as well as a particularly favorable time for collecting herbs and lottery day in connection with peasant rules.

Church year

The date of the birth of John the Baptist was calculated according to an indication of the Gospel of Luke (1.26–38 EU ) from the liturgical date of the birth of Jesus, namely three months after the Annunciation and six months before Christmas : In the church year , this resulted in a very appropriate one the (ancient) date of the summer solstice (June 22 ~ 24) and the winter solstice (December 25). Rise to this reference the longest to the shortest day of the year the Baptist was saying in regard to the coming of Christ ". He must increase, but I must be smaller" ( Jn 3,30  EU ) Jesus Christ , his mother Mary and John the Anabaptists are the only ones on whom, in addition to the day of death, the birthday is also celebrated and celebrated as a solemn festival in the Catholic Church.

After Christianization , the church tried to abolish the pagan solstice tradition. Since all attempts failed, the church finally set the feast day for John the Baptist on June 24th in the 5th century and adopted numerous customs.

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the cantatas Christ our Lord came to Jordan ( BWV 7), Rejoice, redeemed crowd (BWV 30) and you people, praise God's love (BWV 167) for St. John's Day .

The Catholic Church celebrates St. John's Day as the solemn feast of the birth of John the Baptist . The date can also be found in the calendar of other churches, e.g. B. in the Protestant service book .

St. John's Day is also celebrated by the Order of Malta or its evangelical counterpart, the Order of St. John , which refers to John the Baptist.

In the cities, people used to go to the cemetery on the eve of St. John's Day to decorate the graves of relatives with summer flowers and rose bushes.

regional customs

Wooden ship prepared for burning. Bussang , Vosges , France , July 2007
Midsummer bonfire 2012 near Freiburg im Breisgau
Funeral pyre for a St. John's bonfire in the south of Munich

In many countries a distinctive custom has developed around this feast day .

Midsummer bonfire

One of the customs on Midsummer Night was the dance around the bonfire. The St. John's or Würzfeuer is related to the symbolism of fire and sun as well as the solstice. Therefore, the fire itself is also referred to as the sun fire or midsummer fire. It is a custom that has been documented for the first time since the 12th century and has been documented frequently since the 14th century . The fire is usually lit the night before Midsummer Day. Especially on mountains it is an old symbol for the sun and thus for Christ. Even John himself has to do with fire, because according to the prophet Malachi he is considered the forerunner of Jesus ( Mal 3: 1–2  EU ). John said that Christ would be baptized with “fire and with the Spirit” ( Mt 3:11  EU ). The height or mountain symbolism is in the so-called hymn of praise of Zacharias , the father of John ( Lk 1.76–78  EU ).

According to popular belief , the Midsummer bonfire was supposed to ward off demons that cause illness or damage to cattle and malevolent children. This is also indicated by the straw dolls that are thrown into the fire in some areas ("Hanslverbrennen"). In particular, hail damage should also be averted, which is why the St. John's fire is also known as a hail fire . This custom is probably due to the great popularity of the saint. The St. John's fire can be found in various forms almost all over Europe. The southernmost solstice celebration with the Midsummer bonfire was in Alicante for a long time , today it is in Torrevieja .

The rotating wheel used in some places for the Midsummer bonfire is interpreted as the sun. There could also be a connection with the emergency fire, the course of which is largely comparable.

In some places boys and girls jump over the St. John's bonfire. This is a test of courage with a superstitious background: jumping over the fire is supposed to cleanse and protect against disease. The more people jump over it at the same time, the greater the effect should be, and when a couple jumps hand in hand over the fire, the wedding should be celebrated soon.


  • The so-called "St. John's Crown" was woven from twigs and leaves and decorated or partly decorated with candles. In cities, people were invited to dance in the evening under the St. John's crown until the crown turned yellow.
  • In the past, people tied so-called "St. John's bouquets", which usually consisted of seven herbs, and placed them in the vase. It was believed that the herbs had particularly strong healing properties on Midsummer Day. There is also the custom of placing a Midsummer bouquet under one's pillow the night before Midsummer Day in order to keep the happiness in love. Sometimes so-called "St. John's wreaths" were tied. They also mostly consisted of seven herbs and stayed in the house all year round.
  • Girded with a wreath of mugwort ( mugwort belt), the midsummer bonfire used to be danced around; then the belt was thrown into the flames "along with all hostility". Later it was also worn at Midsummer bonfires. Mugwort is associated with John the Baptist, as legend has it that he wore it on his leather belt during his hike through the desert ( Mk 1.6  EU ) described in the Bible in order not to tire.
  • In some cases, people also believed that St. John's litter would make love in one's own house as a carpet of flowers under the dining table.


  • Baking St. John's cakes used to be widespread. In Alsace, it was carried home on a festive lunchtime while still warm, which is where the saying "Hans Dampf in all streets" comes from. In many places landlords gave the servants St. John's cakes.
  • Midsummer's Day is sometimes referred to as “Holdertag” (“Holder” for elderberry ), as “Hollerküchel” are also baked on this day.
  • The asparagus season ends on that day in Germany , as does the rhubarb harvest time.

More locals customs

  • It used to be the custom to take a silent bath (Johannisbad) in rivers and lakes on Midsummer Eve. This was supposed to give you special protection.
  • It used to be believed that the dew of St. John's Night (Johannistau) was full of strength and blessing; therefore one bathed in it and hoped to get rid of diseases or freckles. The flowers were also watered with Johannistau and used as a fermentation agent for bread dough.
  • Nowadays, fountain festivals are still celebrated in many German cities in June. The fountain festivals were held especially earlier on the occasion of the annual cleaning of the village fountain. Some of the festivals took place around St. John's Day, as the figure of St. John is closely connected to the water. In some places people used to bless well water and then sprinkle it on people. In all of this, John the Baptist was asked for special protection. In some places, well masters were also elected. You were responsible for looking after the village well until the next year.

Regional Midsummer celebrations and customs

The Midsummer Jump. From: Otto von Reinsberg-Düringsfeld , The festive year in manners, customs and festivals of the Germanic peoples , Leipzig, 1863
Midsummer's Day in Brittany 1893
Midsummer Festival , painting by Jules Breton 1875

In Germany there are special Midsummer celebrations and customs in the following cities and regions:

  • In the Upper Harz , green spruce trees are adorned with meadow flowers and egg chains and set up in the streets. The children and young people roam the streets from tree to tree. There is coffee, cocoa and cake. People dance to folk tunes around the St. John's tree. The chant “Tripp, Trapp Käse-Napp, today is Midsummer Day” can be heard over and over again. In the evening there is a common festival for the adults. In the past, the individual neighbors met in the streets and celebrated comfortably.
  • In Eschwege ( Hessen ), the St. John's Festival is usually celebrated for five days on the first weekend in July. This varies, however, because the date is also based on the Hessian school holidays, because the schools in the city play a major role in the festival. The parade is led by Dietemann , the symbolic figure from Eschweg .
  • In Mainz is at this time Midsummer Night celebrated.
  • In Markdorf , after ringing the Angelus on June 24th at noon , children celebrate the custom of the Hansafüratles, which is only widespread there .
  • In Casel in Drebkau is on a Sunday to June 24 Lower Sorbian custom of locust riding maintained.

In other countries:

  • So-called mountain fires have been lit in Tyrol since the 14th century. It is mostly a solstice fire. Nowadays they are sometimes also associated with St. John and St. John's Day. The best known of the Tyrolean mountain fires is the Ehrwald mountain fire , which has been declared an intangible UNESCO cultural heritage .
  • On June 24, the mayor and councilors changed in the city-state of Zurich . The upper bailiffs and bailiffs also had their change of office on that day.
  • In France the festival of St. John's is known for short as “Saint-Jean”. The regional customs are different, sometimes the celebration is not held until the following weekend. Since 1834, St. John's Day has been celebrated by the French Canadians as a national holiday. In 1908, Pope Pius X declared John the Baptist the patron saint of the French Canadians. Midsummer Day has been a non-working holiday in the province of Québec since 1977 .
  • In Scandinavia , Finland and the Baltic States , Midsummer celebrations are very common; in Lithuania is Jonines in Latvia Jāņi in Estonia Jaanipäev and in Finland Juhannus (celebrated on Saturday between 20 and 26 June), the most popular holiday at all. A special case is Sweden, where Midsummer is celebrated instead of the Midsummer Festival. Midsummer Eve is called Jóansøka in the Faroe Islands . On the weekend of June 24th there has been a folk, sports and music festival on the island of Suðuroy since 1925. Jónsmessa is also celebrated in Iceland .
  • In Brazil , especially in the northeast, the festival is celebrated as São João . The main centers of this second most important festival after Carnival are the cities of Caruaru in Pernambuco and Campina Grande in Paraíba . Since the festival coincides with the corn harvest, numerous corn dishes (cakes, puddings, soups and corn on the cob that are grilled over the St. John's fire) are eaten. The rich cultural performances are dominated by the dances Forró and Pastoril . In São João the women mostly wear brightly colored, wide dresses, the men plaid shirts and straw hats.
  • In the southern hemisphere, the day is related to the winter solstice . For example in Tarija ( Bolivia ), St. John's Day is generally considered to be the "coldest night of the year". Accordingly, warming drinks such as milk or tea, each with cinnamon and a dash of Singani , are served. These are hot dogs eaten. Due to the high risk of forest fires during the dry season and due to air pollution , St. John's fires are prohibited across the country. However, a number of other rituals for renewal are common, especially in the agricultural sector.

Midsummer Day as Lost Day

St. John's wort blooms around St. John's Day.

St. John's Day is of central importance as a Lost Day in tradition for agriculture and weather. The following pointer plants and animals of phenology are therefore traditionally named after this day:

  • The St. John's wort because it blooms around St. John's.
  • The currant , as it is at this time that it reaches maturity.
  • The St. John's beetle (also glowworms or small fireflies), because its swarms develop their luminosity around St. John's day during courtship .
  • The Johannisblume and the St. John's Candle - in rural areas, especially Bavaria, the real arnica (Arnica montana) has the common name Johannisblume and the mullein is called the St. John's candle. Both names come from the fact that the plants bloom around St. John's Day.

There are many harvest rules and traditions on St. John's Day. As a rule the sheep's cold draws to a close around June 24th ; therefore the harvest of many crops begins here. However , it ends with rhubarb and asparagus , which is why St. John's Day is also known as “Asparagus New Year's Eve”. The appropriate farmer's wisdom is: Don't forget until Midsummer: Eat asparagus for seven weeks.

Many forage grasses are ripe by St. John's Day, and summer cereals and many other crops are now beginning their ripening period. Johanni is therefore the latest date, even in regions with poor climatic conditions - on the coasts of Northern Germany and in the Alps  - for hay harvest, but also as a guarantee for good weather . The term "Johannischnitt" was coined.

A sign of a coming warm weather period after St. John's Day are swarms of St. John's beetles appearing towards the end of June. During this time, St. John's beetles only break out for courtship, when the weather will remain stable and warm for a long time. In the past, farmers started harvesting the hay when they noticed swarms of St. John's beetles, as they could be relatively sure that they could harvest the hay without being surprised by rain showers.

Midsummer Day one does not want to praise barley and oats."

"When the locust worms shine,
you can straighten your scythes."

A delayed development of the animals around St. John's Day is usually associated with bad weather and therefore with crop failures.

"The cuckoo heralds an expensive time
when he calls out for Midsummer."

Midsummer's Day is usually prescribed as the earliest start of haymaking and the mowing of meadow plants, especially in near-natural meadows. In this way, meadow flowers and grasses can sow undisturbed and birds that breed on the ground can raise their offspring. It is also insects and spiders left enough time for a successful propagating. All of this is an important contribution to species protection and the preservation of biodiversity in Europe.

In the case of deciduous trees such as oak or red beech and evergreen hedges, the second shoot occurs around St. John's Day, which is also known as the “ St. John's shoot ”. As a rule, hedges and trees are pruned for the second time a year ("Midsummer pruning"). They will no longer get out of shape until spring shoots. In fruit trees, the St. John's shoot is torn out because it unnecessarily costs nutrients. To compensate for damage caused by feeding on trees, for example by cockchafers, the St. John's shoot can also be very important or useful.

The rural tradition also ironically calls “Johannistrieb” when an older man takes a young woman.

According to popular and magical ideas, the ferns should, for example, start to bloom on St. John's Eve or St. John's Day.


  • Hans-Helmar Auel: Undiscovered Holidays - The church year as a festival of faith. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2000, ISBN 978-3-525-59353-0 , p. 139 ff.
  • Manfred Becker-Huberti : Celebrations, festivals, seasons, living customs throughout the year - history and stories, pictures and legends. Herder, Basel / Vienna / Freiburg im Breisgau 2001, ISBN 978-3-451-27702-3 , p. 348 ff.
  • Johanna Woll, Margret Merzenich, Theo Götz : Old festival customs throughout the year. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1991, pp. 64-65.
  • Christina Zacker : The most beautiful festivals and customs throughout the year. Urania, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 978-3-332-01849-3 .

Web links

  • Annual fire. Institute for European Ethnology, University of Innsbruck

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Hiller: Lexikon des Superstition , Munich 1986, p. 95.
  2. Jakob Grimm : German Mythology. I-III, Berlin 1835; 4th edition, obtained from Elard H. Meyer, Berlin 1875–1878; Reprint, with an introduction by Leopold Kretzenbacher, Graz 1968; Reprint Wiesbaden 1992, Volume III, p. 335 ("Old women pick herbs on Midsummer Day between 12 and 1, where they alone have strength").
  3. Grotefend, Herrmann (1991): Taschenbuch der Zeitrechnung des Deutschen Mittelalter und der Neuzeit , 13th edition, Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, p. 15
  4. Otto Wimmer: Handbook of names and saints, with a history of the Christian calendar. 3rd edition Innsbruck / Vienna / Munich 1966, p. 299 f.
  5. Ulrike von Leszczynski: The magical night of the summer solstice. In: June 17, 2012, Retrieved June 8, 2018 .
  6. Calendarium Romanum Generale
  7. OA (2000): Evangelisches Gottesdienstbuch. Agende for the EKU and the VELKD , Berlin: Verlagsgemeinschaft Evangelisches Taschenausgabe, p. 428f.
  8. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag
  10. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter Johanniskrone and Johanniskleid
  12. ^ König, Hermine (2010): The big year book for children , 2nd edition, Munich: Kösel, p. 246
  13. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter Johannisfeuer and Johanniskuchren and witch foam
  14. König, Hermine (2010): The big year book for children , 2nd edition, Munich: Kösel, p. 245
  15. Glaser, Kurt (1930): Neologism and a feeling for language in today's French , published within the by Dietrich Behrens ed. Series Gießener Contributions to Romance Philology, self-published by the Romance Seminar of the Justus Liebig University Giessen, p. 56
  17. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter St. John's Day - the "day of healing powers"
  18. Abraham, Hartwig / Thinnes, Inge (2010): Hexenkraut und Zaubertrank. Our medicinal plants in sagas, superstitions and legends , Greifenberg: Urs Freund, p. 139
  19. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter Johanniskuchen and Hexenschaum
  20. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter manners, festivals and customs on St. John's Day and St. John's fire
  21. Sonja Helms: Asparagus season. 12 curious facts about asparagus. In: . April 13, 2017, accessed June 15, 2020 .
  22. Growing, caring for and harvesting rhubarb. In: MDR garden . Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk , May 19, 2020, accessed on June 15, 2020 .
  23. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam für die Seele , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter manners, festivals and customs on St. John's Day and Hansblumen and Johannisbad
  24. Hoffmann-Krayer et al. (1931/32): Concise dictionary of German superstitions , Volume IV, published within the edition of the Association of German Associations for Folklore. Series of Manuals for German Folklore, Department I Superstition, Berlin / Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter & Co, p. 760
  25. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter Johannistau
  26. Kremp, Dieter (2011): Herz-Jesu-Blut in St. John's wort. Balsam for the soul , Leipzig: Engelsdorfer Verlag, chapter Hansblumen and Johannisbad
  27. König, Hermine (2010): The big year book for children , 2nd edition, Munich: Kösel, p. 242
  29. - ( Memento from May 16, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  31. Jürgen Matschie, Hanka Fascyna: Sorbian customs. 3rd edition, Domowina-Verlag, Bautzen 2006, ISBN 978-3-7420-1686-7 .
  32. Mountain fires become spectacles , of June 21, 2013
  33. National Holiday (English)
  39. The white giant. In: Der Tagesspiegel. May 15, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2017 .
  41. Dieter Kremp: Sacred Heart of Jesus Blood in St. John's Wort. Balm for the soul. Engelsdorfer Verlag, Leipzig 2011, chapter St. John's Day as Lost Day .
  42. Jakob Grimm : German Mythology. I-III, Berlin 1835; 4th edition, obtained from Elard H. Meyer, Berlin 1875–1878; Reprint, with an introduction by Leopold Kretzenbacher, Graz 1968; Reprint Wiesbaden 1992, Volume II, pp. 1000 and 1013, and Volume III, pp. 288 and 356.