Germany’s Traditions: Johannistag

by Shereece Spain
Stripes Europe

With so many traditions and usually corresponding festivals, it can be difficult to keep track. Johannistag (St. John’s Day) is one not to overlook while you’re stationed in Germany!

In Christian faiths, Johannistag honors the day that St. John the Baptist was born. This year it’s June 24. He represents growth, health and fertility, especially since he was conceived of what would be considered elderly parents. It also happens to be around the same time as the summer solstice (the longest day of the year ... yay!). This solstice plays a very significant role in the lives of farmers for their livestock and crops. You may also start to notice small, star-shaped yellow flowers begin to bloom. Those would be St. John’s wort. This day is representative of so many things that most people can find a reason to partake in the local traditions.

 

What to expect

You may start to notice large piles of wood accumulating in your village or those surrounding. Yes, this is on purpose! On Johannisnacht (St. John’s night), which is June 23, large bonfires (or “needs-fires”) are ignited in celebration of this day. Once upon a time, in some pagan cultures, it was believed the fires would ward off devilish spirits and prevent the spread of contagious diseases. In regions among the Alps in Germany and Austria, the bonfires are usually set atop the highest peaks one can travel. It kind of reminds me of the signal fires from Gondor  to Rohan in “Lord of the Rings.” To farmers, this is also a turning of the growing season tide. After the solstice, the days will gradually become shorter. Therefore, some farmers would spread the ashes from the fires over the fields in hopes of more bountiful crops.

With so many traditions and usually corresponding festivals, it can be difficult to keep track. Johannistag (St. John’s Day) is one not to overlook while you’re stationed in Germany!

In Christian faiths, Johannistag honors the day that St. John the Baptist was born. This year it’s June 24. He represents growth, health and fertility, especially since he was conceived of what would be considered elderly parents. It also happens to be around the same time as the summer solstice (the longest day of the year ... yay!). This solstice plays a very significant role in the lives of farmers for their livestock and crops. You may also start to notice small, star-shaped yellow flowers begin to bloom. Those would be St. John’s wort. This day is representative of so many things that most people can find a reason to partake in the local traditions.

 

What to expect

You may start to notice large piles of wood accumulating in your village or those surrounding. Yes, this is on purpose! On Johannisnacht (St. John’s night), which is June 23, large bonfires (or “needs-fires”) are ignited in celebration of this day. Once upon a time, in some pagan cultures, it was believed the fires would ward off devilish spirits and prevent the spread of contagious diseases. In regions among the Alps in Germany and Austria, the bonfires are usually set atop the highest peaks one can travel. It kind of reminds me of the signal fires from Gondor  to Rohan in “Lord of the Rings.” To farmers, this is also a turning of the growing season tide. After the solstice, the days will gradually become shorter. Therefore, some farmers would spread the ashes from the fires over the fields in hopes of more bountiful crops.

 

Celebrations

Naturally, Germans are spectacular at celebrating and you want to join in the festivities. They’re not usually as highly advertised as other more popular events. However, here’s a chance to chat it up with your German neighbors to get information on a bonfire near you. You may see signs or advertisements in the paper for Johannisfeurer or Sommersonnenwende.

If you start searching for festivals online, be aware that the Johannisnacht Festival in Mainz is not related even though they’re around the same time. Their festival is to celebrate Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the moveable-type printing press. It is one of the top festivals in Mainz and I would highly recommend it. Just know they’re partying for a totally different reason.

Now you have the scoop on the holiday. It’s time to get out and experience it for yourself! Mark your calendar so you don’t forget to partake in Johannistag and Johannisnacht this year.

Naturally, Germans are spectacular at celebrating and you want to join in the festivities. They’re not usually as highly advertised as other more popular events. However, here’s a chance to chat it up with your German neighbors to get information on a bonfire near you. You may see signs or advertisements in the paper for Johannisfeurer or Sommersonnenwende.

If you start searching for festivals online, be aware that the Johannisnacht Festival in Mainz is not related even though they’re around the same time. Their festival is to celebrate Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the moveable-type printing press. It is one of the top festivals in Mainz and I would highly recommend it. Just know they’re partying for a totally different reason.

Now you have the scoop on the holiday. It’s time to get out and experience it for yourself! Mark your calendar so you don’t forget to partake in Johannistag and Johannisnacht this year.

 

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