Taken from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Midsommardans_av_Anders_Zorn_1897.jpg
In many European countries there is a tradition to create a symbolic jackstraw, which is used for ritual dances and processions, to be afterwards torn into pieces and thrown into the fire or in the water.
Ukraine. The Ukrainian symbols of the feast are the figures of Kupalo (god of the summer solstice and sun) and Marena (goddess of the dark water and winter death). The figures are made of a big willow branch, decorated all over with flowers and wreaths. The girls perform songs and circle dances around the figure, then the young men “attack” Kupalo, tear off the flowers and wreaths and throw the branch into the water. Then the traditional bonfire is lit, for the further rituals. In other variations the figure of Kupalo is not put into the water, but covered by the straw and burnt into the festive bonfire. The same ritual is made for the figure of Marena.
Romania. The Midsummer celebrations are known as Drăgaica or Sânziene, which are the names of the spirits, protecting crops and giving special healing powers to the herbs and flowers. According to the tradition, the girls would perform ritual dances and songs on that day, to ensure good harvest and protection of the crop from diseases and all evil. One of the girls would represent Drăgaica, dressed as a bride and wearing a wheat wreath. In such processions they would travel along the fields and villages with their dances.
Sweden. Midsummer is of great importance in this country, and maybe the Swedish traditions of this feast are most unique in Europe. The celebration starts with raising a huge maypole, decorated with green herbs and flowers. People get together and dance around the maypole, some of them dressed in traditional folk costumes and wearing crowns of wild springs and flowers. In the earlier times, people used small spires wrapped in greens, instead of pole. In Europe maypole is characteristic of the May celebrations, and the reason of using it in June, perhaps, comes from the medieval times, when German merchants who stayed in Sweden didn’t manage to find greens and flowers in May, due to the cold northern climate, so they started to prepare Maypole around Midsummer period. By another version, a form of Midsummer pole existed in Sweden already in the pre-Christian times, symbolizing fertility of the earth. Anyway, today they do not call it anymore “maypole”, but “Midsummer’s pole”.
Video: traditional Midsummer dances in Sweden
Norway. In some parts of the country they arrange mock marriages, both between adults and between children. Such “wedding” symbolizes the blossoming of new life.
Ireland. In this country Midsummer carnivals are held in many areas, including fairs, concerts and fireworks.
Estonia. There is a tale derived from Estonian mythology, about the eternal love between Hämarik (a beautiful maiden, personification of dusk) and Koit (a young man, representing dawn). The summer solstice is the only period of the year when they can meet and kiss each other, parting again then for the whole year.
Latvia. The traditional Midsummer celebrations include the representation of the wedding of the Sky Father (Janis) and the Earth Mother, with ritual songs, and then the celebrants called “Janis’ children” visit all farms with the blessing songs. Small oak branches with leaves are attached to the cars during the festivity. Latvians traditionally eat Janu cheese, made of cottage cheese and caraway seeds, and drink beer during the feast. Women wear wreaths of flowers, and men those of green leaves, jump over the bonfire and sing traditional songs. In the town of Kuldīga there is a race of the naked over the historic bridge, traditionally held at three of the Midsummer morning.
Slovakia. The boys collect all the old brooms of the village houses, dip them in pitch, set them on fire and then shake them in the air or throw them up. The remains of the brooms are kept and planted in fields of cabbages, to protect the vegetables from the insects.
Italy. St John’s feast is spread mainly in the cities under his patronage, such as Florence, Genoa and Turin, as well as in some other regions.
Portugal. People hit lightly their neighbours with the points of flowering garlic plants, for good luck. According to the legend, John was mischievous in his childhood, and people hit him on the head with the garlic plant “to put him on the right path”.
Spain. The traditional dish for St John’s Day in Mediterranean coast of Spain is so-called Coca de Sant Joan, a kind of sweet pizza, made with candied fruit. In Galician traditions the ancient rites of Midsummer were based on three basic ideas: medicinal plants and their importance for health and beauty, water and its purifying effects, fire and its protective properties against the evil spirits and witches.
Trailer to the short Russian film "Ivan Kupala":