Jāņi (pronounced English: Saint John's Day) is a Latvian festival held in the night from 23 June to 24 June to celebrate the feast day of St John the Baptist, as well as the summer solstice (Midsummer), the shortest night and longest day of the year. The day of Līgo(23 June) and the day of Jāņi (24 June) are public holidays, and people usually spend them in the countryside. The festival's eve Jāņu vakars is held in the evening of 23 June and goes on all through the night Jāņu nakts , where people Līgo (sway) into the following day.
Jānis is traditionally the most common of Latvian male given names, corresponding to English name John, and everybody of the name Jānis holds a special honor on this day (Jāņi is a plural form of Jānis) and wears an oak wreath. Besides John, the name of Jānis is also etymologically linked with other names of various nations, such as Aeneas, Dionysus, Jonash, Jan, Jean, Johan, João, Ian, Ivan, Huan, and Han.
Jāņi was an ancient festival originally celebrated in honour of a Latvian pagan deity Jānis, who is mentioned in Latvian folksongs of antiquity. The festival's current date has shifted a few days from 21 June/22 June when the summer solstice actually takes place, due to the Christianisation of the holiday, which led to the day's christening as Saint John the Baptist's feast day, which falls on 24 June. Today, Jāņi incorporates some of the former folk traditions with Christian elements.
Jāņi is thought to be the time when the forces of nature are at their most powerful, and the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds are thinnest. In the past, evil witches were believed to be riding around, so people decorated their houses and lands with rowan branches and thorns in order to protect themselves from evil. In modern days other traditional decorations are more popular, including birch or sometimes oak branches and flowers as well as leaves, especially ferns. Women wear wreaths made from flowers; in rural areas livestock is also decorated
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