Midsummer
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MIDSUMMER

Midsummer is the period of time in the middle of the summer. The exact dates vary among different cultures, but is primarily held close to the summer solstice. The celebration predates Christianity, and existed under different names and traditions around the world.[7][8]

The undivided Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John's Day begins the evening before, known as St John's Eve. These are commemorated by many Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion,[2][9] as well as by freemasonry.[10] In Sweden, the Midsummer is such an important festivity that there have been proposals to make the Midsummer's Eve into the National Day of Sweden, instead of June 6. In Latvia, Midsummer's Jāņi festival is a public holiday. In Denmark and Norway, it may also be referred to as St. Hans Day.[11]
DATABASES
Midsummer is the period of time in the middle of the summer. The exact dates vary among different cultures, but is primarily held close to the summer solstice. The celebration predates Christianity, and existed under different names and traditions around the world.[7][8]

The undivided Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John's Day begins the evening before, known as St John's Eve. These are commemorated by many Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion,[2][9] as well as by freemasonry.[10] In Sweden, the Midsummer is such an important festivity that there have been proposals to make the Midsummer's Eve into the National Day of Sweden, instead of June 6. In Latvia, Midsummer's Jāņi festival is a public holiday. In Denmark and Norway, it may also be referred to as St. Hans Day.[11]
Midsummer celebrates the earth, summer, and the longest day of sunlight, Summer Solstice, June 21. The word solstice comes from the Latin word sol, meaning sun, and stice, to stand still. During summer solstice, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky creating the longest day of the year. In the North, it’s the time of the midnight sun as the sun drops to just below the horizon and the night never reaches complete darkness.

The Midsummer Festival is known as Juhannus Day in Finland and Midsommar in Denmark and Norway. The Midsummer Festival is a hundred-year-old Scandinavian tradition. Huge bonfires are built. People jump over the bonfires for luck. In Finland, the bonfire is called a “kokko.” The wood used has been collected throughout the year. Homes are decorated with garlands of wildflowers and greenery. People dance, visit friends and relatives all night. Ancient ritualistic dances used to be performed to drive away evil spirits and ensure a fertile land. Today, the dances are just for fun.
n Christian lore, the sun is in mourning on Good Friday and will not shine until after 3pm. On Easter Sunday in England, people once arose early to witness the sun dancing and in some parts of the country this solar dance was seen as a lamb leaping for joy in honour of the risen Christ. But on June 21st it is summer solstice when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. The sun seems to pause, stand still and linger for several minutes – hence the word solstice. From sol (sun) and stitiun (to stand still). Midsummer marks the rising of the sun to its zenith, followed by a gradual waning of its power as the year turns once more. Midsummer ceremonies and customs had their origins in ancient sun worship and purification rites and were a feature of Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian settlement or influence in places such as Lowland and Eastern Scotland, Orkney, Shetland and Cornwall but soon spread.

The warmth of the Midsummer sun made stones dance across Britain. The Longstone on Dartmoor turned round slowly to get equal warmth on each side on that morning. At the Callanish standing stones on Lewis, if a cuckoo heralded the Midsummer sun as it fell upon “The Shining One” stone, all the stones were said to move. Those stones were once visited secretly at Midsummer when such visits were condemned by local church ministers but folk believed it wouldn’t do “to neglect the stones.” At the sacred hill of Tara in the Boyne Valley, people still gather to watch the sun rise at Midsummer.

The strength of the sun on Midsummer’s Day was believed to imbue plants with healing qualities. Women gathered herbs for healing potions for the whole year. Magical fernseeds, only seen on Midsummer’s Eve, would bring the power of invisibility. People also bathed in, and drank the healing waters of lakes that captured Midsummer sunshine, for health and good fortune. St. John’s Wort warded off evil spirits and could in legend move by itself to avoid being picked. On the Isle of Man if trodden on, on Midsummer (St John’s Day), a fairy would lift you up and lead you astray until the first rays of the next morning’s sun.
Swedes are fairly well attuned to the rhythms of nature. At Midsummer, many begin their five-week annual holidays and everyone is in a hurry to get things done during the relatively short summer season. Midsummer Eve is usually celebrated in the countryside, which means that on the day before, everyone leaves town, everything closes and the city streets are suddenly spookily deserted.

Legend has it that the night before Midsummer’s Day is a magical time for love. It still is, in a way. During this night many a relationship is put to the test. Under the influence of alcohol, the truth will out, which can lead both to marriage and to divorce.

In agrarian times, Midsummer celebrations in Sweden were held to welcome summertime and the season of fertility. In some areas people dressed up as ‘green men’, clad in ferns. They also decorated their houses and farm tools with foliage, and raised tall, leafy maypoles to dance around, probably as early as the 1500s.
Mysticism and magic are a common theme in midsummer folklore across the world. Magic was thought to be strongest during the summer solstice and myths told stories of the world turning upside down or the sun standing still at midsummer.

As Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at the University of Bristol, put it, it was seen as 'a time when the normal laws of nature or divinity could be suspended, when spirits and fairies could contact humans, when humans could exceed the usual limitations of their world.’

In an 1855 oil painting from Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire, Scottish painter William Bell Scott depicts pixies dancing by firelight. In a letter that Scott himself wrote in 1886, he spoke of the painting as showing ‘fairies dancing before a great dying kitchen fire … at a Haunted House on Midsummer’s Eve.’
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