by Emma Kathan
Midsummer also known as St. John’s Day is a day commemorating the Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year (the day with the most sunlight). It’s been celebrated as a Eastern European pagan holiday by ancient Nordic, Germanic, Polish and Russian peoples for thousands of years and is still celebrated as a major holiday in Scandinavia and many Eastern European and northern countries such as the United Kingdom,Ireland and the Netherlands. It was later turned into a Christian holiday by the church signifying the birth of St. John the Baptist (much like Jesus being born on the Winter Solstice or Christmas, St. John was seen as being born on the Summer Solstice).
The celebrations typically involve burning bonfires and decorating one’s home and self with bright yellow and orange flowers like St. John’s Wort and Calendula, mimicking the bright colors of the sun. In this way we can see echoes of the Spring Equinox festivals such as Beltane and May Day being replayed. Some towns even erect a kind of maypole in their ceremonies and feature a mock wedding like the May King and Queen.
Midsummer is a time of feasting, singing, dancing and ceremonial rituals such as jumping through fires or walking on hot coals to pay homage to the heat and purification of the powerful,fiery sun. The bonfires are also thought to ward off evil spirits and bad luck and keep the people safe from evil and wrongdoings for the coming year.
Midsummer is seen as a magical evening and many witches would gather herbs on this day as they were thought to be more potent. It is also seen as a time of celebrating love and fertility and many love spells or small rituals involving discovery of who you will fall in love with are popular. For instance, if you sleep with certain flowers under your pillow on Midsummer’s night, your true love will reveal themselves to you in your dreams that night. It is also a time of giving and receiving poetry and flowers to the ones that you love.