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Summer Solstice is Thursday June, 21st!

Did you know that many different cultures celebrate the Summer Solstice with holidays, festivals, and rituals? How are you going to celebrate?

In Spain midsummer is celebrated by honoring Saint John the Baptist

Bonfire at Almadrava beach on Saint John’s night

La Noche de San Juan is an exciting celebration filled with friends, family, bonfires and food. It takes place the evening of June 23rd (Saint John’s Eve) where bonfires are lit in order to ward off evil spirits. At midnight, a very special moment of San Juan begins, the releasing of wishes, or juras, into the bonfires. These are written down, the pages are burned, symbolizing a cleansing purification and liberation from the past, and a willingness to look forward to the coming summer, for a new cycle of sun and warmth.

Midsummer tradition is also strong in the northern areas of the country, where the rituals are based on the pagan belief of observing natural cycles, such as seasonal changes or the waxing and waning of the moon. In Galicia, for example, it is traditional for women to collect several species of plants on Saint John’s eve. These include fennel, ferns, rosemary, St John’s wort, and elder flowers. In some areas, they are then arranged in a bunch and hung in doorways, in others they are dipped in a vessel with water and left outside until the following morning where the flower water is then used to wash their faces.

Firedancers in village Balgari, Bulgaria

The collecting of herbs for their medicinal powers is traditional to the Bulgarian Midsummer day celebration known as Eniovden. Where the celebrations of this day are related to the summer solstice, healing waters and wild herbs. It is believed that on this day, and especially at sunrise, different grasses and herbs have the greatest healing power. The herbs are thought to heal all known diseases, and they are woven into crowns by the women. Traditional dances take place around huge fires with fire-leaping and a practice of dancing on the smoldering embers. People stay up all night to welcome the dawn, and it’s believed that anyone witnessing the sunrise will have good health all year.

Photo taken by Karin Aasma, at the Midsummer celebrations at Årsnäs near Kode, 1964.

Midsummer’s Eve is the national holiday in both Sweden and Finland! In Sweden it is observed on a Friday between June 19th and 25th.  It is an occasion of large gatherings where people often begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole, where they gather to sing and dance, an ancient custom probably related to fertility rites. In Finland it is celebrated the Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June and is typically spent with friends and family away from the city where lighting bonfires and bathing in saunas are two of the most typical traditions. However, in the olden days, Midsummer spells were cast many having to do with hopes of increasing fertility and finding a future spouse.

Take some traditions listed above or create your own with these books found at the Haverhill Public Library! And while you are planning your summer, see how you can celebrate it with us on our Events Calendar!

Home Made Summer by Yvette van Boven

Pagan Pathways : A Complete Guide to the Ancient Earth Traditions by Graham Harvey

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Beyond the Blue Horizon : Myths and Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Planets by E. C. Krupp

Red Sky at Night : The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom by Jane Struthers

Grow it, Heal it : Natural and Effective Herbal Remedies from Your Garden or Windowsill by Christopher Hobbs

 

 

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