Midsummer in Lithuania is a very old tradition, very strong during pagan times and then celebrated as Saint John’s (“Joninės”) after catholicism spread. Or rather, after nasty German Teutonic knights, after centuries of resistance, finally invaded and christianised the country 😛  – that is the version you hear growing up as a child in Lithuania.

At independence in the 90s, the pagan midsummer “Rasos” celebration became one of the ways to claim back Lithuanian identity, even more than the Catholic “Joninės”.

Usually it all starts in the late afternoon when everyone collects wildflowers and makes their wreath. The flower collection may be a ritual in itself, walking a number of steps in each direction and picking the first flower seen – the shape of their bouquet then may have a significance that the elders will explain. Then everyone sings the farewell to the sun, and at dark a fire is lit. More songs follow around the fire, with sharing of black bread and water, before the festivities start: dances and more songs. Then late at night, everyone walks over to the river, places a little candle in their wreath and lets it float downriver – such a beautiful sight!

Here’s a little selection of what we saw and heard when we participated in Rasos/Joninės in Rumšiškės and Kernavė.