The cosmic summer solstice is celebrated around the world today, however, Croatians have other traditions, related to the birth of St.John the Baptist on June 23rd. An ancient tradition, traced to pre-Christian times, marks the beginning of the summer. In Croatia, they are still lighting fires (Ivanjski krijesovi) on the eve of St. John’s birth, celebrating what was for many pagans the most important moment of the annual cycle.
The celebrations are held in the evening because this was, in ancient times, considered the real beginning of the day. If you happen to be in Croatia this June 23, you can find authentic Midsummer Eve celebrations in are held in Karlovcu, Đakovu, Donjoj Stubici, Lukavcu, Špišić Bukovici and other villages that strive to keep their traditions alive.
An interesting aspect is the tradition of jumping over the fire, particularly by children and young people, who believe that this will keep them safe from evil and illness till the next solstice. The fires are usually lit on high hills, or along the river banks. Authentic bonfires can be observed in Pokuplju, along the river Kupa, or on the banks of the river Cetina in Dalmatia.
The purpose is to continue a long “rivalry” between the two villages, in building the largest, and most luminous fire. The event is also marked with fireworks, music, dance, and sporting competitions. The ignition of the bonfires and fireworks are scheduled for 22:00 local hours, and are followed by a KAWASAKI 3P concert at 22:30. Image courtesy, Karlovac tourist board.