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Midsummer Day’s Bonfires
In the annual cycle of calendar customs, usually connected with
specific religious holidays, in rural as well as in urban regions, bonfires were lit or are still lit as part of the rites celebrating these days. The lightning of annual fires has not been researched in Croatian ethnology, however, older ethnographic accounts give short descriptions and some attempts at interpretation of this phenomenon, usually in the framework of culturalhistorical school if ethnology.
Midsummer Day’s bonfire, also called krijes, svitnjak, prosvit, etc. is
connected to the day of St. John the Baptist (24 June according to Gregorian calendar) and presents a long tradition linked to the night before Midsummer’s Day, and as a customary practice has been present among rural population for centuries.
On the basis of the author’s field research and available publications on the topic, we can observe certain changes in social and cultural sphere where the custom of lightning of Midsummer Day’s bonfires has been preserved till present day, or has been revitalized in some ways. In the majority of rural regions, the custom has been mostly abandoned or has been symbolically marked, while in the other regions it has survived significant changes, mostly in the form and the size of the fire, but preserving the function of community gathering, mostly relating to the middle-aged local population. Furthermore, the Church and religious elements are now present in the custom to a larger extent than in the past. In cities, lightning of bonfires is a central event followed by numerous festivals in which city authorities, tourist offices, folklore groups, cultural organizations commonly participate and different sports’ events are also organized. New scenography and choreography with historical reminiscences give to the custom a completely new dimension and meaning than it had in its original form.
fire; Midsummer Day; Midsummer Day’s bonfire ("svitnjak")
Hrčak ID: 4946
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