Saint John’s Day

Where my family is from, they say, “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you!”  This day came, and I didn’t realize it. I knew when I was living in Romania that toward the first part of the year, they celebrated Saint John’s Day, but I wasn’t sure exactly which day because I don’t have a Romanian calendar here with me in S. Korea.  I decided to look it up on the internet, and I got confused because several sites were saying Saint John’s Day was in June, but I knew in Romania they didn’t celebrate John the Baptist in June.  From what I understand, the Catholics celebrate his birthday in June because it is 6 months away from Christmas, and the Bible is clear that he and Jesus were born 6 months apart.  However, the Romanians celebrate his birthday on January 7th in Transylvania where I lived for several years.  I was right. It is at the first part of the year, but it passed, and I didn’t realize it because I was thinking about the hard core Orthodox in Romania celebrating Christmas on January 7th and my dad’s birthday on the 7th.  John the Baptist Day is also on the 7th of January in Romania.

Here is the Romanian flag from when I went to the celebration of the Romanian National Day here in Seoul, S. Korea.

In Romania, they have a thing called “name day.” This is similar to birthdays.  Every person in Romania wants to have their own patron saint.  They often put up plaques in the offices or houses with their saint on them. They are proud to have the same name as that saint.  You congratulate them on the day it is their “name day.”  There are many names in Romania that mean John:  Ioana, Ioan, Ionuti, etc. etc.  These people could be in big trouble on their name day.

body of water between green leaf trees
Photo by Ian Turnell on Pexels.com

You see, I was actually pretty lucky because I taught writing at the university, and one of the assignments I gave my students was to write about a Romanian holiday, and I learned a lot of interesting things about Romanian holidays.  I learned from my students that on Saint John’s Day, they go through the village and find everyone who is named John, or some derivative thereof, they physically take them from their homes and take them to the river and throw them in the river. After all, John the Baptist spent his time baptizing people in the Jordan River.

nature photography of river near trees
Photo by Michiel Alleman on Pexels.com

However, Romania is a very, very cold country. In fact, January 7th is a very cold day in many places around the world.  Can you imagine people grabbing you and carrying you to the river in the dead of winter when snow is on the ground and throwing you in?  I am thankful my name is not Ioana!  Transylvania is known for Dracula, but I know it for so much more. It is a place of holidays. The calendar is full, and the people are always celebrating!  My neighbor told me that if she didn’t go to work on every holiday on the Romanian calendar, she would never go to work.  That would be fun! In fact, Romanians really know how to party, and spend a lot of time doing it.  They are a very happy people, and John the Baptist Day is just one more day they are out having a good time.

3 thoughts on “Saint John’s Day”

  1. St. John’s Day in Arizona and Sonora, is related to the rain. It is June 26, I think. If it does not rain on St. John’s Day, it will not rain for another 6 weeks. In the semi-desert, that is a long time to go without rain. There are many celebrations of jumping in water -irrigation canals, etc- and even dumping water on friends.

    1. I am not Catholic or Orthodox either one, but I find both of their celebrations and histories very interesting because they come from such a long line of history. When I was in graduate school, I really enjoyed Greek and Roman literature because it was a study of their gods and how their gods influenced their behavior. I have also studied Islam, Shintoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I love to study any kind of religion or philosophy because they influence how people act, and it helps me to understand what is gong on around me, why people do what they do.. We use the Catholic calendar made by Pope Gregory, but it was only made a few hundred years ago. The Lunar calendar and the Julian calendar were the old calendars, and some people still use them, but the Gregorian calendar seems to be trying to take over the world. Probably if we wanted to trace things back to the original dates, the Julian calendar and Lunar Calendars could give us more help than the one we have because they were closer to the actual incidents we celebrate. The scholars and history keepers really don’t know the date of Jesus’ birthday, and when we celebrate Christmas, it is just a random date. If we follow what Julius Caesar said and celebrate the birth of John the Baptist in January, then probably, The June date would be more of when Jesus’ birthday was. The Orthodox say that they know exactly when John the Baptist was born, but we really don’t know when Jesus was born. The Orthodox are meticulous about holding on to the old ways. The whole religion is about tradition. They have 20 other books besides the Bible they think are holy that are full of traditions. My daughter says the Catholic also hold on to tradition, but with my acquaintance with Orthodox, they are worse. They even design their church buildings after the Old Testament temple. I taught English at the Orthodox seminary in Sibiu, and the future nuns I taught wanted to teach me as much as they could about Orthodoxy. They took me to the chapel at the school, and it looked like what is described as the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament complete with the mercy seat, and the room was completely gold. I keep thinking I still have a lot of blogs coming from those girls studying to be nuns as well as my other students from Lucian Blaga University because they did and said some very interesting things.

      1. I just realized I messed up on the dates of the Julian calendar and the Gregorian Calendar. The Julian calendar was originally made in 45 B.C.., and the Gregorian calendar, the one we use was made in 1582 A.D.

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