We’re heading up to Michigan this weekend to celebrate the Summer Solstice. The solstice signifies the longest day of summer and has deep roots in pagan religions and European cultural traditions. Known as “Jani” to Latvians in reference to the Name’s Day tradition, this day holds special significance to the Baltic and Scandinavian cultures.
Some of the activities are singing traditional “Jani” songs, drinking strong homebrew beer, and eating “Janu siers” which is cheese with caraway seeds. Given enough beer and bravery, some brave souls jump over the campfire to make a new start for the next year. As you can see in the picture, not that fire. Another Latvian tradition is to take your sweetie and lead them to a quiet spot in order to seek out “Papardes Zieds” which translates roughly to fern flowers. (Like snipes, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever find them. But you get the idea) And if you’re unable to stay awake for the entire night and not see the next day’s sunrise, then it’s said you will sleep all throughout the next year.
I understand others may not understand the significance of this holiday and even use it in a derogatory manner to mean it’s something for pagans, Wiccans, and hippies. Does this mean my family and I will be running through the woods hugging a many trees to worship the sun, grass or dirt Gods? No. We use this night to meet family and friends and to catch up on old times. I have many friends who will make the drive tonight and tomorrow to Three Rivers. So I’ll get my cooler ready with some cold brews and cheese and make sure I get enough rest for the long night ahead!