Today is Johannistag – St. John’s Day

St John’s Wort – Johanniskraut

Not only was this once considered to be the date of the summer equinox, it is also the last day for harvesting your rhubarb and asparagus! And it is also the latest date for making hay – still adhered to in the nature reserves here, thus allowing wild flowers and grasses to go to seed. The equinox is actually a few days earlier, on June 21st, but old traditions die hard…

Alpine Meadow 2010

In Bavaria,  24thJune is an important date for forecasting the weather and thus planning the harvesting season… yes, even today it can be fairly accurate! There are many sayings connected with Johannistag. Here are a few I have rewritten in English in order to make them rhyme!

  • When the glow worms start to glow, it is time to go and mow! (Wenn die Johanniswürmer glänzen, darfst Du richten Deine Sensen)
  • Before St John’s Day pray for rain, after it will spoil the grain. (Vor Johanni bitt’ um Regen, nachher kommt er ungelegen)
  • Cherries red, asparagus dead! (Kirschen rot, Spargel tot!)

The word Johannis is heard often in different contexts in June:

Johanniskraut, St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), is named after this saint since it usually flowers on or around St John’s Day, and is harvested then.

Redcurrants are called Johannisbeeren in German, as they ripen around this date.

Glow worms are also known as Johannis bugs, as they typically appear towards the end of June.

It is time to cut your beech hedges, as they send out new shoots at this time of year; the Johannis shoots!

And the Johannis herbs – herbs used for herbal remedies -are harvested at this time, such as chamomile, moon daisies, cornflowers, burdock, wolf’s bane, larkspur, wild poppies, thyme, mugwort, verbena, calendula, verbascum, and of course St John’s Wort. A small wreath is traditionally made with nine herbs, and displayed on the door as protection against sickness and evil.

Alchemilla mollis, Lady’s Mantle… a herbal remedy for women in particular:

Leucanthemum vulgare, Moon daisy… a healing herb dedicated to St John:

In the south of Germany the night of June 23rd-24th is celebrated with ancient customs. Across the countryside you can see beacons lit on hills – the Johannis fire – as a pagan symbol for the sun at the summer solstice, later being changed by the Catholic Church into a symbol of light and hence Christ.

In some communities there may be a dance, or other festival, and re-enacted rituals involving herbs, especially St John’s Wort.

Are there any special traditions for Midsummer where you live?

36 thoughts on “Johanni

  1. Fascinating, all of it! I knew a bit, here and there… But it’s utterly intriguing how it’s all intertwined. ♥ Thanks so much for sharing!! (I’m going to be sending to my gardening family who don’t have access to WP, wink.)

  2. I love learning about plants and their history. And I especially love to learn about the seasons. Fabulous traditions with plants. I do not know of any traditions of midsummer here in the US, but I have memories of things we used to do in my Seasonal Celebrations posts…beaches open, schol is out and ice cream is consumed in great quantities 🙂

  3. What a wonderful post, Cathy! It’s like reading an almanac (but more fun). I didn’t know all of this about St. John’s Wart, but I do remember the mid-summer bonfire.
    Your translations are terrific, too, by the way.

  4. Latvians have pretty much the same St John’s Festival (Jāņi), with bonfires and eating a special cheese and much beer drinking. Then there’s the tradition for young couples to go off into the woods to search for the mythical fern flowers. I suspect they may have other things on their minds 😉

    • LOL! Interesting that they have a special food in Latvia, as I haven’t heard of anything special for Johanni here. Unusual for the Bavarians as they love their specialities! Thanks Gunta! 😀

  5. Hi Cathy, thank you for this post. Memories on Bavaria come up. I once met a Johannisfeuer/-fire in Franken. It is definetely in day of change. We have the sayings around asparagus, …
    I´d like to set a link to this post on my site. Have a nice Johannistag! Uta

  6. Pingback: red ~ Johannistag | Herbstbaum

  7. How neat that wildflowers are considered! There is nothing like that here, and that is sad. The hay gets cut here when it is tall enough, and I have not see many builders for planners put the wildflowers first.

    Thanks for an uplifting post, Cathy.

    • Hi Sandy. I’m pleased you liked the post. Wildflowers do get cared for here like nowhere else I know. I suppose there are plenty of exceptions, but the knowledge/awareness and the farming regulations at least exist!

  8. I enjoyed your informative post and lovely photos. My husband and I travel to Bavaria most years but have never been in the summer….usually fall or at Christmas.

  9. My Dad was named John but I don’t remember st. john’s day. I do know about asparagus and also the time to remove the snow peas you planted before St. Pat’s day. Midsummer – ah bonfires, dancing and romancing. For me, it also brings up multiple performances of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare – both my daughter and I have played Titania queen of the fairies- many years apart of course- so in the late evening, dancing barefoot in the grass.

  10. very interesting information about the summer solstice! thanks
    photos are beautiful as they always are…
    David in Maine USA

    • Thanks! The St John’s Wort obliged and opened 2 days early, and I just managed to get a photo of the beech shoots before my man of many talents trimmed the hedge on the 22nd! 😉

  11. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my
    myspace group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

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