Friday, 21 December 2012

Litha - Summer Solstice

Midsummer is also sometimes referred to by neopagans and others as Litha.

Here in Australia we celebrate on 21st December this year whereas in Europe a day between June 21 and June 24 the exact dates vary between different cultures is celebrated. 

Known by many names Summer Solstice, Litha, Alban Hefin, Sun Blessing, Gathering Day, Feill-Sheathain, Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide, Vestalia, Thing-tide, St. John's Day.

In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices, and the two equinoxes. The Summer Solstice is one of them.

According to the old folklore calendar, Summer begins on Beltane (November 1st) and ends on Lammas/Lughnassadh (February 1st), with the Summer Solstice midway between the two, marking Mid-Summer. It celebrates when the hours of daylight are longest. The Sun is now at the highest point before beginning its slide into darkness.

Humanity has been celebrating Litha and the triumph of light since ancient times. On the Wheel of the Year Litha lies directly across from Yule, the shortest day of the calendar year, that cold and dark winter turning when days begin to lengthen and humanity looks wistfully toward warmth, sunlight and growing things. The joyous rituals of Litha celebrate the verdant Earth in high summer, abundance, fertility, and all the riches of Nature in full bloom. This is a madcap time of strong magic and empowerment, traditionally the time for handfasting or weddings and for communication with the spirits of Nature. At Litha, the veils between the worlds are thin; the portals between "the fields we know" and the worlds beyond stand open. This is an excellent time for rites of divination.

Photo Source http://www.examiner.com
Those who celebrated Litha did so wearing garlands or crowns of flowers, and of course, their millinery always included the yellow blossoms of St. John's Wort. The Litha rites of the ancients were boisterous communal festivities with morris dancing, singing, storytelling, pageantry and feasting taking place by the village bonfire and torch lit processions through the villages after dark. People believed that the Litha fires possessed great power, and that prosperity and protection for oneself and one's clan could be earned merely by jumping over the Litha bonfire. It was also common for courting couples joined hands and jump over the embers of the Litha fire three times to ensure a long and happy marriage, financial prosperity and many children. Even the charred embers from the Litha bonfire possessed protective powers - they were charms against injury and bad weather in harvest time, and embers were commonly placed around fields of grain and orchards to protect the crops and ensure an abundant reaping. Other Litha customs included carrying an ember of the Litha fire home and placing it on one's hearth and decking one's home with birch, fennel, St. John's Wort, orpin, and white lilies for blessing and protection.

Litha is the season of expansion, when the crops burgeon forth. We forget winters cares and spend our days basking under the brilliant light. From now until Yule, the light will fade into darkness.

This is the time of lovers and gardeners. The rutting fervor of Beltane has deepened into the passionate eroticism that grows when partners become familiar with one anothers rhythms and moods. It is the love between those committed by heart as well as body. It is also the love of parents for their children (be they two- or four-legged!). Everywhere we look, ripeness spills out from field and forest.

Litha is the height of the Divine Marriage, then the Oak King falls, His vigor and prime giving way to the sagacity of the Holly King, even as the Goddess prepares Herself for harvest and Cronehood.

Photo Source www.sodahead.com

The Litha Sabbat is a time to celebrate both work and leisure, it is a time for children and childlike play. It is a time to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and the beginning of the waning year, in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is a time to absorb the Sun's warming rays and it is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. Wiccans consider the Goddess to be heavy with pregnancy from the mating at Beltane - honour is given to Her. 

At the Summer Solstice, the Goddess is the Generous Mother, Freya, Flora, Habondia, she who gives life and fruitfulness to all her children. Everything in nature is generous - otherwise we could not live. The apple tree makes hundreds of apples every year, when only one seed in one apple would be enough to reproduce the tree. Bees make honey so that the hive can survive the winter, but they keep on working all summer long, storing enough to share. Life could exist without climbing roses, striped butterflies, songbirds, raspberries, or wildflowers, but the Goddess keeps making new forms of beauty for us to enjoy.

The Goddess at Summer Solstice gives us not just what we need, but extra. We can feel close to her by being generous, giving more than were asked to give, and doing more than just our fair share. That way, we make abundance for all.

The rose is the Goddesss symbol at this time of year. Roses bloom abundantly, and we can take joy in their sweet scent and the lovely colors of their petals. Another of her flowers are the white blossoms of the elder.

Photo Source http://moonpathcuups.org
The Sun God is celebrated as the Sun is at its peak in the sky and we celebrate His approaching fatherhood - honour is also given to Him. 

All through the first half of the year, since his birth at the Winter Solstice, the God has been growing into this life in the visible, tangible world. Now, at the Summer Solstice, he transforms. The daylight is longest and strongest at this time, but now the power of night must begin to grow again. Everything and everyone who fulfils their purpose must change. The God dies in this world in order to be born into the Other-world. 

Before, he was awake in this world and asleep in the Dream-world  Now he becomes the Dreamer, asleep in this world but awake in the world of dreams and visions, the seed of what will come to be in this world. He becomes the Messenger, carrying our hopes and prayers to the spirit realms.

The God is also the partner of the Goddess, bringing abundance to all of nature. He is Lugh, the Sun God, and he is the ancient power of life who was known simply as the Good God, Keeper of the Crops, provider for his people.

The faeries abound at this time and it is customary to leave offerings - such as food or herbs - for them in the evening.

Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. He suggests that this may be because this is when the sun is at its strongest yet also the day at which it begins to weaken. Another possibility is that the water mitigates the heat of the sun, and subordinating the sun wheel to water may prevent drought. This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. Crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but may require water to keep them alive.

For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and mediate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. 

Photo Source http://salemwitchchild.blogspot.com.au

Tools, Symbols & Decorations
The sun, oak, birch & fir branches, sun flowers, lilies, red/maize/yellow or gold flower, love amulets, seashells, summer fruits & flowers, feather/flower door wreath, sun wheel, fire, circles of stone, sun dials and swords/blades, bird feathers, Witches' ladder.

Colors
Blue, green, gold, yellow and red.

Customs
Bonfires, processions, all night vigil, singing, feasting, celebrating with others, cutting divining rods, dowsing rods & wands, herb gathering, handfastings, weddings, Druidic gathering of mistletoe in oak groves, needfires, leaping between two fires, mistletoe (without berries, use as a protection amulet), enjoying the seasonal fruits & vegetables, honour the Mother's fullness, richness and abundance, put garlands of St. John’s Wort placed over doors/ windows & a sprig in the car for protection.

Goddesses
Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Venus, Aphrodite, Yemaya, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, all Goddesses of love, passion, beauty and the Sea, and Pregnant lusty Goddesses, Green Forest Mother; Great One of the Stars, Goddess of the Wells

Gods
Father Sun/Sky, Oak King, Holly King, Arthur, Gods at peak power and strength.

Animals/Mythical Beings
Wren, robin, horses, cattle, satyrs, faeries, firebird, dragon, thunderbird

Gemstones
Lapis lazuli, diamond, tiger’s eye, all green gemstones, especially emerald and jade

Herbs
Anise, mugwort, chamomile, rose, wild rose, oak blossoms, lily, cinquefoil, lavender, fennel, elder, mistletoe, hemp, thyme, larkspur, nettle, wisteria, vervain ( verbena), St. John’s wort, heartsease, rue, fern, wormwood, pine,heather, yarrow, oak & holly trees

Incense/Oil
Heliotrope, saffron, orange, frankincense & myrrh, wisteria, cinnamon, mint, rose, lemon, lavender, sandalwood, pine

Rituals/Magicks
Nature spirit/fey communion, planet healing, divination, love & protection magicks. The battle between Oak King, God of the waxing year & Holly King, God of the waning year (can be a ritual play), or act out scenes from the Bard’s (an incarnation of Merlin) "A Midsummer Night’s Dream", rededication of faith, rites of inspiration.

Foods
Honey, fresh vegetables, lemons, oranges, summer fruits, summer squash, pumpernickel bread, ale, carrot drinks, mead.

Photo Source http://suite101.com
Midsummer is especially important in the cultures of Scandinavia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia where it is the most celebrated holiday apart from Christmas.

In Austria the midsummer solstice is celebrated each year with a spectacular procession of ships down the Danube River as it flows through the wine growing Wachau Valley just north of Vienna. Up to 30 ships sail down the river in line as fireworks erupt from the banks and hill tops while bonfires blaze and the vineyards are lit up. Lighted castle ruins also erupt with fireworks during the 90-minute cruise downstream.

In Brazil Portuguese St. John's Day, brought to Brazil during colonial times, has become a popular event that is celebrated during a period that starts one week before St. Anthony's Day (June 12) and ends after St. Peter's Day (June 29). Two northeastern towns in particular have competed with each other for the title of "Biggest Saint John Festival in the World", namely Caruaru (in the state of Pernambuco), and Campina Grande, in Paraiba. The celebrations are very colourful and festive and include the use of fireworks and bonfires.
Photo Source http://www.gocielo.com
In Bulgaria on Midsummer day Bulgarians celebrate the so-called Enyovden. On the same day the Eastern Orthodox church celebrates the day of John the Baptist and the rites and traditions of both holidays are often mixed. 

In Quebec Canada, the celebration of June 24 was brought to New France by the first French colonists. Great fires were lit at night. The first celebrations of St John's Day in New France took place around 1638.  In 1908, Pope Pius X designated John the Baptist as the patron saint of the French-Canadians. In 1925, June 24 became a legal holiday in Quebec and in 1977, it became the secular National Holiday of Quebec. It still is the tradition to light great fires on the night of the 24th of June.

In Croatia, midsummer is called Ivanje (Ivan being Croation for John). It is celebrated on June 23, mostly in rural areas. Festivals celebrating Ivanje are held across the country. According to the tradition, bonfires (Ivanjski krijesovi) are built on the shores of lakes, near rivers or on the beaches for the young people to jump over the flames.

In Denmark, the solstice celebration is called sankthans or sankthansaften ("St. John's Eve"). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.

It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although bonfires are built in many other places where beaches may not be close by. In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth (probably made by the elder women of the family on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church's witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the "witch" away to Bloksbjerg, the Brocken mountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. 

Photo Source http://en.wikipedia.org
Danes on the riverbank

Estonia "Jaanipaev" ("John's Day" in English) was celebrated long before the arrival of Christianity in Estonia, although the day was given its name by the crusaders. The arrival of Christianity, however, did not end pagan beliefs and fertility rituals surrounding this holiday. Midsummer marks a change in the farming year, specifically the break between the completion of spring sowing and the hard work of summer hay-making.
The best-known Jaanik, or midsummer, ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and jumping over it. This is seen as a way of guaranteeing prosperity and avoiding bad luck. Likewise, to not light the fire is to invite the destruction of your house by fire. The fire also frightened away mischievous spirits who avoided it at all costs, thus ensuring a good harvest. So, the bigger the fire, the further the mischievous spirits stayed away.
Since 1934, June 23 is also national Victory Day of Estonia and both 23rd and 24th are holidays and flag days. 

On the Faroe Islands St. John's Eve (jóansøka) is generally not celebrated. However, on the southernmost island of Suouroy it is observed by lighting a bonfire. Only one bonfire is lit on the island as one of the two biggest towns hosts the celebration alternately every other year.

Finland Midsummer bonfire in Seurasaari are very common where many people spend their midsummer in the countryside outside towns. Before 1316, the summer solstice was called Ukon juhla, after the Finnish god Ukko. In Karelian tradition, many bonfires were burned side by side, the biggest of which was called Ukko-kokko (the "bonfire of Ukko"). After the celebrations were Christianised, the holiday became known as juhannus after John the Baptist (Finnish: Johannes Kastaja). In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires (Finnish kokko) are very common and are burnt at lakesides and by the sea. Often two young birch trees (koivu) are placed on either side of the front door to welcome visitors. Swedish speaking Finns often celebrate by erecting a midsummer or maypole (Swedish midsommarstång, majstång). Midsummerday is also the day of the Finnish Flag. The flag is hoisted at 6 pm on Midsummer eve and flown all night till 9 pm the following evening.

Photo Source http://en.wikipedia.org
In France, the "Fête de la Saint-Jean" (feast of St John), traditionally celebrated with bonfires (le feu de la Saint-Jean) that are reminiscent of Midsummer's pagan rituals, is a catholic festivity in celebration of Saint John the Baptist. It takes place on June 24, on Midsummer day (St John's day). In certain French towns, a tall bonfire is built by the inhabitants in order to be lit on St John's Day. In the Vosges region and in the Southern part of Meurthe-et-Moselle, this huge bonfire is named "chavande".

The day of sun solstice is called Sommersonnenwende in German. On June 20, 1653 the Nuremberg town council issued the following order: "Where experience herefore have shown, that after the old heathen use, on John's day in every year, in the country, as well in towns as villages, money and wood have been gathered by young folk, and there upon the so-called sonnenwendt or zimmet fire kindled, and thereat winebibbing, dancing about the said fire, leaping over the same, with burning of sundry herbs and flowers, and setting of brands from the said fire in the fields, and in many other ways all manner of superstitious work carried on---Therefore the Hon. Council of Nürnberg town neither can nor ought to forbear to do away with all such unbecoming superstition, paganism, and peril of fire on this coming day of St. John." Bonfires are still a custom in many areas of Germany. People gather to watch the bonfire and celebrate solstice.

Photo Source http://en.wikipedia.org
Bonfire in Freilburg im Breisgau

In Greece according to Eastern Orthodox tradition the eve of the day of the Nativity of John the Baptist is celebrated with festivals in many towns and villages, both in the mainland and in the Greek isles. Traditionally the midsummers celebration is called Klidonas (Κλήδονας) meaning sign or oracle, and was considered a time when unmarried girls would discover their potential mates through a ritual. It is also customary to this day to burn the Mayday wreaths that are used to decorate the doors of the houses for the previous two months, in large communal bonfires, accompanied by music, dancing and jumping over the flames.

On June 21 Hungarians celebrate "Saint Ivan's Night" (Szentiván-éj). The whole month of June was once called Month of St. Ivan until the 19th century. Setting fires is a folklore tradition this night. Girls jumped over it, while boys watched the spectacular.Most significant among the customs of the summer is lighting the fire of Midsummer Night (szentiváni tűzgyújtás) on the day of St. John (June 24), when the sun follows the highest course, when the nights are the shortest and the days the longest. The practice of venerating St. John the Baptist developed in the Catholic Church during the 5th century, and at this time they put his name and day on June 24. Naturally, the summer solstice was celebrated among most peoples, so the Magyars may have known it even before the Conquest. The custom survived longest and in the most complete form in the north-western part of the linguistic region, where as late as the 1930s they still lit a Midsummer Night fire. People jumped over the fire after they lit it. 

Iran Tiregan (Persian: تیرگان‎) is the ancient Iranian festival coinciding with the mid summer festivals.

In Ireland many towns and cities have 'Midsummer Carnivals' with fairs, concerts and fireworks either on or on the weekend nearest to Midsummer. In rural spots particularly the north-west, bonfires are lit on hilltops. This tradition harks back to pagan times and is now associated with "St. John's Night". 

In Italy the feast of Saint John the Baptist has been celebrated in Florence from medieval times, and certainly in the Renaissance, with festivals sometimes lasting three days from 21 to 24 June. Such celebrations are held nowadays in Cesena from June 21 to 24, also with a special street market. Saint John the Baptist is the patron saint of Genoa, Florence and Turin where a fireworks display takes place during the celebration on the river. In Jersey most of the former midsummer customs are largely ignored nowadays. The custom known as Les cônes d'la Saint Jean was observed as late as the 1970s - horns or conch shells were blown. Ringing the bachîn (a large brass preserving pan) at midsummer to frighten away evil spirits survived as a custom on some farms until the 1940s and has been revived as a folk performance in the 21st century.

In Lativa, Midsummer is called Jani (Jānis being Latvian for John) or Ligo svētki (svētki = festival). It is a national holiday celebrated on a large scale by almost everyone in Latvia and by people of Latvian origin abroad. Celebrations consist of a lot of traditional and mostly Pagan elements - eating Jāņi cheese (special recipe with caraway seeds), drinking beer, baking pīrāgi, singing hundreds of Latvian folk songs dedicated to Jāņi, burning bonfire to keep light all through the night and jumping over it, wearing wreaths of flowers (for women) and oak leaves (for men) together with modern commercial products and ideas. People decorate their houses and lands with birch or sometimes oak branches and flowers as well as leaves, especially fern. In rural areas livestock is also decorated. In modern days small oak branches with leaves are attached to the cars in Latvia during the festivity. Jāņi has been a strong aspect of Latvian culture throughout history, originating in pre-Christian Latvia as an ancient fertility cult.

Photo source http://www.flickr.com
Lativa Jani
Midsummer is commonly called John's Day (Joninės) in Lithuania, and is also known as Saint Jonas' Festival, Rasos (Dew Holiday), Kupolė, Midsummer Day and St. John's Day. It is celebrated in the night from the 23rd of June to the 24th of June. The traditions include singing songs and dancing until the sun sets, telling tales, searching to find the magic fern blossom at midnight, jumping over bonfires, greeting the rising midsummer sun and washing the face with a morning dew, young girls float flower wreaths on the water of river or lake. These are customs brought from pagan culture and beliefs. 

As in Denmark, Sankthansaften is celebrated on June 23 in Norway. The day is also called Jonsok, which means "John's wake", important in Roman Catholic times with pilgrimages to churches and holy springs. For instance, up until 1840 there was a pilgrimage to the stave church in Roldal (southwest Norway) whose crucifix was said to have healing powers. Today, however,Sankthansaften is largely regarded as a secular or even pre-Christian event. In most places the main event is the burning of a large bonfire. In parts of Norway a custom of arranging mock marriages, both between adults and between children, is still kept alive. The wedding was meant to symbolize the blossoming of new life. Such weddings are known to have taken place in the 1800s, but the custom is believed to be older. It is also said that if a girl puts flowers under her pillow that night, she will dream of her future husband.

Photo Source http://en.wikipedia.org
Norwegian St Hansbal (bonfire) in Bergen.
Especially in northern Poland – the Eastern Pomeranian and Kashubian regions – midsummer is celebrated on June 23. People dress in traditional Polka dress, and girls throw wreaths made of flowers into the Baltic Sea, and into lakes or rivers. The midsummer day celebration starts at about 8:00 p.m. and lasts all night until sunrise. People celebrate this special day every year and call it Noc Świętojańska which means St. John's Night. On that day in big Polish cities (like Warsaw and Krakow) there are many organized events, called the Wianki, which means wreaths.

In Portugal, Midsummer festivities are included in what is known today as Santos Populares (Popular Saints celebrations), now corresponding to different municipal holidays: St Anthony's Day in Lisbon and Vila Real (June 13), St John's Day in Porto, Braga,Figueira da Foz, Vila do Conde, and Almada (June 24), St Peter's day in Seixal, Sintra, Povoa de Varzim, and Barcelos (June 29). Saints’ days are full of fun and merriment. The streets are decorated with balloons and arches made out of brightly coloured paper; people dance in the city's small squares, and altars, dedicated to the saints, are put up as a way of asking for good fortune. These holidays are days of festivities with good food and refreshments, people eat Caldo Verde (cabbage and potato soup), Sardinha Assada (grilled sardines), bread and drink red wine and água-pé (grape juice with a small percentage of alcohol).


Photo Source http://en.wikipedia.org
St John's festival in Porto
In Romania, the Midsummer celebrations are named Dragaica or Sanziene. Drăgaica is celebrated by a dance performed by a group of 5-7 young girls of which one is chosen as the Drăgaica. She is dressed as a bride, with wheat wreath, while the other girls, dressed in white wear a veil with bedstraw flowers. Midsummer fairs are held in many Romanian villages and cities. The oldest and best known midsummer fair in Romania is the Dragaica fair, held in Buzau between 10 and 24 June every year. 

Ivan Kupala was the old Russian name for John the Baptist. Up to the present day, the Russian Midsummer Night (or Ivan's Day) is known as one of the most expressive Russian folk and pagan holidays. Ivan Kupala Day is the day of summer solstice celebrated in Russia and Ukraine on June 23 NS and July 6 OS. This is a pagan fertility rite, which has been accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar. Many rites of this holiday are connected with water, fertility and auto-purification. The girls, for example, would float their flower garlands on the water of rivers and tell their fortunes from their movement. Lads and girls would jump over the flames of bonfires. Nude bathing is likewise practised.

The Yakut people of the Sakha Republic celebrate a solstitial ceremony, Ysyakh, involving tethering a horse to a pole and circle dancing around it. Betting on Reindeer or horse racing would often take place afterward. The traditions are derived from Tengriism, the ancient sun religion of the region which has since been driven out by the Russian Orthodox Church and finally the Communist Party. The traditions have since been encouraged.

In Serbia Ivanjdan is celebrated on July 7, according to the Serbian Orthodox Church Saint John (Sveti Jovan) is known by the name Igritelj (dancer) because it is thought the sun is dancing on this day. Among traditions are that girls watch the sunrise through their wreath, to become red as the sun, towards the evening in the heights, Ivanjske vatre (kresovi, bonfire) are lit, and dancing and singing takes place. It is a tradition for people to become Godfathers and blood brothers on this day, as John is a symbol of character and  rectitude.

The traditional midsummer party in Spain is the celebration in honour of San Juan (St. John the Baptist) and takes place in the evening of June 23. It is common in many areas of the country. Bonfires are traditionally named tequeos, which means people of the dance. Parties are organised usually at beaches, where bonfires are lit and a set of firework displays usually take place. On the Mediterranean coast, especially in Catalonia and Valencia, special foods such as Coca de Sant Joan are also served on this occasion.

Midsummer tradition is also especially strong in northern areas of the country, such as Galicia, where one can easily identify the rituals that reveal the pagan beliefs widespread throughout Europe in neolithic times. These beliefs pivot on three basic ideas: the importance of medicinal plants (fennel, rosemary, lemon verbena as just a few), especially in relation to health, youth and beauty; the protective character of fire to ward men off evil spirits and witches and, finally, the purifying, miraculous effects of water.  Tradition holds it that the medicinal plants mentioned above are most effective when dipped in water collected from seven different springs. Also, on some beaches, it was traditional for women who wanted to be fertile to bathe in the sea until they were washed by 9 waves.

Photo Source  http://en.wikipedia.org
Almadrava Beach - Spain
In modern Sweden, Midsummer's Eve and Midsummer's Day (Midsommarafton and Midsommardagen) were formerly celebrated on 23 June and 24 June, but since 1953 the celebration has been moved to the Friday and Saturday between 19 June and 26 June with the main celebrations taking place on Friday. It is one of the most important holidays of the year in Sweden, and probably the most uniquely Swedish in the way it is celebrated. Raising and dancing around a maypole (majstång or midsommarstång) is an activity that attracts families and many others. Before the maypole is raised, greens and flowers are collected and used to cover the entire pole. People dancing around the pole listen to traditional music and sing songs such as Sma grodorna associated with the holiday. Some wear traditional folk costumes or crowns made of wild springs and wildflowers on their heads. The year's first potatoes, Soused herring, Chives, Sour Cream, Beer, Snaps and the first strawberries of the season are on the menu. Because Midsummer was thought to be one of the times of the year when magic was strongest, it was considered a good night to perform rituals to look into the future. Traditionally, young people pick bouquets of seven or nine different flowers and put them under their pillow in the hope of dreaming about their future spouse. 

Photo Source  http://en.wikipedia.org
Midsummer celebration Arsnas Sweden

In Great Britian from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, June 23) and St. Peter's Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking. Traditional Midsummer bonfires are still lit on some high hills in Cornwall. This tradition was revived by the Old Cornwall Society in the early 20th century. Bonfires in Cornwall were once common as part of Golowan, which is now celebrated at Penzance, Cornwall. This week long festival normally starts on the Friday nearest St John's Day. Golowan lasts several days and culminates in Mazey Day. This is a revival of the Feast of St John (Gol-Jowan) with fireworks and bonfires.

Midsummer festivals are celebrated throughout Scotland, notably in the Scottish Borders where Peebles holds its Beltane Week.

In Wales it is called Gŵyl Ifan, or Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Haf (St John's of Midsummer) to distinguish it from Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Gaeaf (St John's of Midwinter, the feast of John the Evangelist). Great agricultural fairs used to be held at this time, along with merriment and dancing. A bonfire was also kept this night. Since 1977, a folk-dance revival started in Cardiff, and is held now annually on this feast day.

Photo Source http://en.wikipedia.org
Tansys Golowan - A cornish hilltop bonfire
Midsummer celebrations held throughout the United States are largely derived from the cultures of immigrants who arrived from various European nations since the 19th century.

The NYC Swedish Midsummer celebrations in Battery Park NYC, attracts some 3,000-5,000 people annually, which makes it one of the largest celebrations after the ones held in Ledsand and at the Skansen Park in Stockholm. Swedish Midsummer is also celebrated in other places with large Swedish and Scandinavian populations.

The Seattle Washington neighbourhood of Fremont puts on a large Summer Solstice Parade and Pageant. In St. Edwards Park in Kenmore, the Skandia Folkdance Society hosts Midsommarfest, which includes a Scandinavian solstice pole.

A solstitial celebration is held on Casper Mountain in Wyoming at Crimson Dawn park. The celebration is attended by many people from the community, and from around the country. A large bonfire is held and all are invited to throw a handful of red soil into the fire in hopes that they get their wish granted.

Tucson has announced its first annual Earthwalk Solstice celebration, with sister events in San Francisco, Jerusalem, and other communities around the world. The event features a walk through a giant labyrinth, musicians, healers, ceremony, etc. In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the large number of Finnish and other northern European descendants celebrate Juhannus annually by holding a beachfront bonfire on the Saturday following the first day of summer.




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