'Žežin Sv. Ivana', in a broader dialect known as 'Ivanjski krijesovi' (St. John's Bonfires) is a traditional and popular festival celebrated around the world during Midsummer, which takes place on the evening of June 23rd, also recognized as St. John's Eve, when St. John the Baptist was born. John the Baptist was a Christian saint, preacher, and Jesus’s predecessor. The polyptych of St. John the Baptist, by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) is located in the church of St. Lovrinac in Vrboska, and is one of the most valuable works of art on the island of Hvar.
The bonfires are actually a pre-Christian folk custom that belongs to the group of customs related to the winter and summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinoxes. The custom of setting ablaze bonfires at the time of the summer solstice, when days are the longest and the Sun in its highest position in the sky, is very old and has been observed in Vrboska for centuries.
From ancient times, these customs are associated with June 24th, on the day of summer solstice, as it was the longest day of the year. As the Julian calendar (365.2500 days) was slightly longer than the tropical year (365.2422 days), the astronomical solstice shifted each century by approximately three days, which was stopped by Pope Gregory XIII and his calendar reform. Later, the Gregorian calendar was accepted. Since then, the summer solstice happens around June 21st. St. John's festivities, however, in many parts of Europe are still connected with the feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist.
In all parts of Croatia, the aim is to celebrate the beginning of summer, in the way the old Croatians did it in pagan times.