St John’s Eve

Although this is not about writing, it is about one of the things that is (almost) as dear to me and certainly takes up an (almost) equal amount of time during the summer months…

irish traditional farming

And so the fire was lit…

Yesterday was St John’s Eve, the evening before the feast day of St John and an important night in the calendar of any Irish gardener who has planted spuds!

It’s the Irish bonfire night, when fires are lit to bless the crops. The ritual is traditionally performed at sundown – only we weren’t available that late so we lit the fires a bit early. And then for the best bit; we dug up our first stalk of potatoes in 2014.

Despite our hastiness, I’m pleased to report there was no negative impact on the flavour. However, I’m sorry to report that there aren’t any photos of the cooked product as they mysteriously disappeared before the camera arrived! (*Cough*).

Apparently, summer bathing used to commence after this ritual, and it was believed that taking part in the fire burning eliminated all risk of drowning. You can read more about the custom here.

I used to live in Andalucia and – after several years of completing this Irish ritual – I have only just realised that this rural tradition coincides with the wonderful Noche de San Juan Batista.

A celebration held on the beach, Noche de San Juan Batista also centres around bonfires; in this instance, to cleanse and purify, with people leaping over fires to burn their troubles away then running into the sea for good luck. I loved this night, when smoke would permeate the air and hundreds of bonfires would line the nighttime horizon.

I wonder – did any of you observe either of these old rituals last night? I’d love to think we were all lighting fires, keeping tradition alive.

Irish traditions

The pike was then used to unearth the first stalk, breath held.

traditional farming, west cork

Time to carry the loot from the earth to the pot (in your T-Shirt, of course)!




6 thoughts on “St John’s Eve

  1. SJ O'Hart says:

    Sadly, I had never heard of these traditions until I read your post. I’m going to do my best to remember, and observe, this celebration next year. Not that I have any crops, but let’s not nit-pick. 🙂

    • ERMurray says:

      Next year! How’s the growing going so far? I’ve surprisingly mastered pak choi this summer, even though it should be a winter vegetable. Can’t beat a bit of home grown.

      • Rich says:

        Never tried that (don’t even know how to cook it).

        I’ve kept towards the reliable spring/early summer crops around here: peas, bush beans, & kale. Big crop of onions looking like they’ll actually be big enough to warrant picking later in the summer. Asparagus has come and gone.

        Fruits are going crazy just now: raspberries & blueberries. Few strawberries & Serviceberries/Juneberries are gone. Rhubarb is rhubarb; it’ll be bearing until the frost finally nips it.

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