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The Garlands of San Giovanni

In the oldest Karst districts, where deeply rooted traditions often still live on, it is common to see bunches of flowers and small garlands, about twenty or thirty centimetres in diameter, tied to window bars - at Štanjel Castle, for instance, but also at many other less visited sites.

A garland of San Giovanni [Federica Zamparo]

On the afternoon of 24 June, women set off for the fields, sometimes to locations that they keep secret, to collect mushrooms, and small flowers and leaves. Each flower has a special symbolic significance.

The plants most commonly taken are stonecrop (Sedum Rupestre L.), St. John’s wort (Hypericum Perforatum L.), the smoke tree (Cotinus Coggygria Scop.), the flowering ash (Fraxinus Ornus L.), juniper (Juniperus Comunis L.), oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum Vulgare) along with any others that appeal to the pickers.

In the evening the women gather in the community hall or make up garlands by using wire to tie small bunches of mixed flowers, wrapped in leaves, to a circular wire frame.

Each completed garland, adorned with a red ribbon, will protect the home and its inhabitants from evil influences, and any remaining bunches of flowers are used to decorate windows for the same purpose until 24 June of the following year.