Slovenes Celebrate the Day of the Summer Solstice on 23 June
The night of St. John the Baptist chases the evil forces away. Today the Slovenes celebrate the day of the summer solstice (Kres), which the Eastern Slavs call the Day of St. John the Baptist or the “Ivan Kupala’s Night”. The holiday is a relic of an ancient pagan ritual of worshiping the Sun, but in modern Slovenia, it has gained a patriotic connotation. The Catholic Church today celebrates the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
During the Kres holiday, the rite of lighting summer bonfires takes place in different cities of Slovenia in the early hours of 24 June (analogue of the Eastern Slavs’ Day of St. John the Baptist or the “Ivan Kupala’s Night”). This is the most famous and ancient custom on the eve of the Ivan Kupala’s Night (Janeza Krstnika), which is celebrated on 24 June (according to the Julian calendar) and from 6 to 7 July (according to the Gregorian calendar).
Today, according to the Christian Catholic tradition, the Day of St. James (Šentjaževo) is celebrated. However, in many parts of Slovenia, people turn to the ancient pagan tradition of lighting ritual bonfires (Slovene: kurjenje kresov). All Kres ceremonies (Slovene: kresne šege) associated with fire originate from the sacred attitude of a Man to the Nature, which roots in the depths of centuries. People celebrate the night of Ivan Kupala as the longest day of the year. The Slovenian proverb says, “O kresi se dan obesi.” This means that the “Day of Ivan Kupala is endless,” although in reality the longest day of the year is on 21 June. On the Day of Ivan Kupala, people worshiped the Sun and lit fires, so that the Sun preserved its vital force. The Kresovanje rite on the Slovenian lands was revived again in the second half of the 19th century and gained patriotic colouring.
The most popular legend associated with the Ivan Kupala’s Night says that at this time we can freely communicate with animals if we put a fern seed in the pocket. In some versions of the legend, it is said that this makes a person invisible.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Is an Inexhaustible Source of Inspiration
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, a comedy written by William Shakespeare around 1595 is the most famous work in the world literature dedicated to the Ivan Kupala’s night. It is considered one of the first descriptions of a travel to the boundless and unconscious world of fantasy.