The making of St John wreaths and hanging them on the front doors of homes on Midsummer’s evening is an old Karst tradition. It originates from pagan times and is based on a popular belief that picked plants have a superpower that protects people and homes from bad luck.
The old folk custom was widespread all across the Karst up until World War II. The villagers of Štanjel revived it a good decade ago. It is even included in the register of living heritage, because it helps people reconnect with nature, while also promoting creativity.
On the Sunday before the name day of St John, which is on 24 June, a wreath-making workshop is organised in Štanjel for all who want to learn this skill. On St John’s Day, the villagers hang the wreaths on their front doors and leave them there the whole year. Then, as the old folk tradition would have it, they burn them in a bonfire and hang new ones.
These traditional wreaths are believed to protect the house from evil forces, along with hail and snakes. If a severe storm was nearing the village, people used to throw a few flowers from the wreath onto the fire to keep them out of harm’s way.
The selection of the plants woven into a wreath is also very significant. The most important plant is a biting stonecrop (Sedum acre), popularly called ‘yellow crosses’. A wreath of these tiny yellow flowers is a true work of art. It may take several hours to make one, which is why today women include other wildflowers in it, too.
Eventually, all together, the workshop participants hang their carefully made wreaths on the front doors, where they hang until the next Midsummer's Day.