Now is the time of year for the Summer Solstice – commonly referred to as the “Longest Day of the Year” (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the “Shortest Day of the Year” (in the Southern Hemisphere). The former is the more common reference, while the second is more of the inferred.
For those Latin buffs out there (like myself), you’ll note that the word Solstice comes from the Latin Solstitium (standing sun). If you are on Central Standard Time in North America, the Summer Solstice will starts at 6:26 AM (sunrise) on June 21st. For the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, the general time is 12:26 Universal Time (so you can figure out your time zone from that time by subtracting the appropriate number of hours).
The Summer Solstice is very commonly referred to as Midsummer (coming from the Germanic word for Summer and most similar to the “Midsommar” of Swedish). While many people may think of a particular play when they hear the word (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), there is far more history and culture involved. Midsummer is also sometimes referred to as Litha. Since the celebration of the Summer Solstice predates Christianity, it should be no surprise that it is often considered a ‘Pagan’ celebration. At present, Midsummer is considered a Sabbat day for the followers of modern day Wicca (a Sabbat day being one of the 8 major seasonal celebration days for the Wiccans).
[Wikipedia] The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve was from ancient times linked to the summer solstice. People believed that at midsummer plants had miraculous and healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other evil powers.
In Sweden Midsummer celebration originates from the time before Christianity, it was celebrated as a sacrifice time in the sign of the fertility.
Unsurprisingly, as times changed and Christianity came to power, the Church did morph the celebration by renaming it and using a Christian day of celebration on the same day – the birthday feast of St. John the Baptist. Midsummer’s Eve celebrations go by a slew of different names, but are often just as celebrated as the Solstice itself. Many countries celebrate Midsummer in different ways, and have for ages before the onset of Christianity. A list of how different countries celebrate.
Happy Midsummer / Litha / Sankt Hans aften / Feast of St. John / JaaniÃµhtu / Ukon juhla / Juhannus / Midsommar / Noc ÅšwiÄ™tojaÅ„ska / Les cÃ´nes d’la Saint Jean / JÄÅ†i / Sankthansaften / Jonsok / Ivan’s Day / etc…