St. John’s Day

Cooking Through the Christian Year


Krøyer, Peder Severin. Midsummer’s Eve Bonfire on Skagen’s Beach. 1906. Painting. 257 by 149.5 centimeters (101.2 in × 58.9 in). Denmark. Skagens Museum.

Saint John’s Day – June 24th

One of the largest festivals of the year was the Feast of St. John. It marked mid-summer and was a day of celebration. While all of the saints are celebrated at the date of their death or martyrdom, only Jesus and John are celebrated at their birth. This is because Jesus’ birth was celebrated at the winter solstice. Some believe this was done to transplant pagan festivals, but in reality, it was because his death and conception were all celebrated at Passover, which aligns with the vernal equinox.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that John, Jesus’ cousin, was born six months before Jesus, which ties John’s birthday to the solar year like Jesus’. This is especially fitting because in John 3:30, John says, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” The shortening of days that begins at mid-summer symbolizes our humanity getting out of the way for the light of God to shine.

It’s no surprise then that the day is primarily celebrated on the eve with a bonfire, like other major festivals. Each of the four solar days and the four quarter days were celebrated with such a fire. Early monastic journals tell us that bones of animals were collected throughout the preceding season and burned as an offering of thanksgiving for life in a bone fire, which eventually became the word “bonfire.” Families and friends gathered around a large fire to share stories of their faith and celebrate together. The Yule-log of Christmas, the Paschal-fire of Easter, the fire of Pentecost, and the Pyre of Halloween (All Saints) all have their origin in this practice.

We recommend having a bonfire for this Mid-summer night’s dream. Gather family and friends to remember the forerunner of Jesus and talk about how we prepare the way for God to work in the world. John teaches us that this is mostly about getting out of the way, putting the ego aside, and letting God shine through.

We are celebrating with kebabs. These simple treats are a great companion to a bonfire. Friends can select their meats and vegetables and roast them over the fire themselves, like hot dogs, or they can be cooked on a grill. While today, metal or wood skewers are used, kebabs were often roasted on swords by traveling armies. The word “kebab” comes to us through Arabic, but likely goes back to an ancient root from the cradle of civilization, from an Akkadian/Sumerian word, meaning to burn or char.

So light a bonfire, grill up some delicious meats, and celebrate with family and friends the setting of the sun and the dawn of a new season. Let us follow St. John the Baptist’s example and prepare the way for God’s work in the world.



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  • Metal skewers (wood skewers can also be used, but will need to be soaked in water for 30 minutes to discourage burning)

  • Marinated meat of your choice such as beef (sirloin), pork (chop), chicken (thighs), or seafood (shrimp/salmon, work well)

  • Vegetables and Fruits of your choice such as bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, pineapple, mango, and peaches


  • Select the meats, fruits, and vegetables of your choice.
  • Cube the meat, fruits and veggies in to equal size pieces and place them on a metal skewer in a pattern of your choosing.
  • Cook kebabs over high direct heat (such as open fire or grill) until meat is cooked through. Cook time will vary depending on the meat you choose.