Here in the United States, most of us only know about Midsummer from the Shakespearean play, Midsummer Night’s Dream, but Midsummer isn’t a holiday that is celebrated by the general population. Midsummer is another name for the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day and shortest night, of the calendar year, which takes place on June 21st. Flowers and fruits are in full bloom, the earth is warm, and there is a lot of fun just waiting to be had.
In our modern lives, when we can have as much light as we want for as long as we want it, thanks to electricity, we have lost a bit of the “magic” that this night held for our ancestors. Imagine how glorious the longest day of the year would be if all winter, we had darkness, real darkness, around 4:00pm. No street lights, no reading lights, limited candle light… we certainly would celebrate the return of the sun into our lives, wouldn’t we!
Traditionally, all throughout Europe, Midsummer was celebrated by lighting bonfires, which represented the burning sun. Festivals included singing, dancing around a maypole, flower wreaths in girls’ hair, and bountiful feasts of the summer harvest. It was also a time for love and romance, as the month of June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of love. In England, as evidenced in Midsummer Night’s Dream, fairies might be sighted in the magical moonlight, wreaking havoc in the love lives of mere mortals. And in Sweden, where Midsummer is still a national holiday, young women are supposed to place seven different wildflowers under their pillows. At night, their future husbands will appear to them in a dream.
So how can we celebrate this lovely time today? The best way to honor the longest day of sunshine is to get out and enjoy it!! How about a nice long day at the beach, followed up by a (legal) bonfire as the sun dips below the water? Or a pool party with a fire pit? Or picnicking in a park, picking wildflowers? Working in your garden? Attending a June wedding? Midsummer is our first day of summer, so spend the day doing whatever summer means to you! We will be enjoying the Lavender Festival at the Highland Springs Resort, a local organic farm. Then we’ll head over to my mom’s house for swimming and a bar-be-que, complete with watermelon and homemade ice cream. When I get home, I will probably light a candle rather than a bonfire to celebrate the glory of the sun, but I know that we will be kicking off a summer full of long days running in the sprinklers, trips to the beach, and sun-kissed skin as we trundle off to bed.