In the Northern hemisphere, hot summer months fast unfurl with sunny, warm days that drag on long into the night. The Sun is reluctant to set, and night seems shorter and brighter than usual. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year in terms of daylight.
Standing in athetesis to the shortest day of the year, both days named a solstice but in opposite seasons. As with the winter solstice, the summer equivalent has many celebrations tied to it, in countries all around the globe.
The summer solstice is best known under the name Midsummer, and it usually takes place between June 20 and 22. Many modern celebrations have roots in ancient agrarian holidays, and like winter solstice, so does midsummer.
The longest day, the most sun to shine down and ripen the crops. It is also downhill from here as the days will start growing shorter as the summer season slowly starts flowing into colder seasons.
A time for celebration
Before autumn rolls in with harvesting chores, the middle of the summer is a time for celebration and revelry in the hot summer days. Sweden celebrates Midsummer by dancing around a maypole that has been decorated beforehand. Such merriment is believed to bring good fortune and health.
In Romania, the Midsummer celebration is named Dragaica, or the night of Sanziene. Celebrating this night, a group of at least five girls dress in white dresses, resembling bridal gowns in a folkway, weave flower crowns, and go dancing at night around a bonfire. Later the flower crowns will be thrown over a house. All this is done to bring health and prosperity from the fertile lands and into the harvest season.
Similarly, Russia also celebrates midsummer. Girls wearing flower garlands and throwing them into a river as a form of divination to interpret their fortunes.
A Christian lense
Many old pagan midsummer celebrations have been inevitably morphed over many centuries by Christianity.
Now, most countries around the world celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist on the date of the summer solstice. John’s birth is recorded in the Bible as being six months before the birth of Jesus, so the church placed the date on midsummer which neatly coincides with the old pagan celebration. Easing transition to Christianity in doing so, as with many other holidays previously adapted as well.
Observing celestial bodies has always influenced the people living on the tiny blue marble that is, earth. A change in the sky meant a change on the ground and the continuous observing of such phenomenon shaped the human psyche and relation with the world.
The summer solstice is no exception as we see its magical influence even in literary works, most famously ‘A midsummer night’s dream’ by William Shakespeare. Maybe the most famous story of summer revelry, love, and other quirky chaotic human behaviors associated with midsummer.