Happy St. John's Day...I Mean...Happy Pagan Solstice Day!
So I'm sure that the title just chapped a few kiesters, and that OK. History sometimes annoys people, because they either choose to ignore the realities of the past, or revising the past to affirm personal beliefs just "feels better" to many. Whichever way you lean, you should learn as you travel through life that a more open mind is a healthy thing, and never a detriment.
Onto the meat and potatoes! Happy Almost St. John's Day, everyone! Whereas June 24th is the calendar date for the Feast of St. John the Baptist, the origins of this feast day take us back centuries. June 24th is very close to what many people called the Midsummer, or the celebrations marking the the start (or middle) of summer based on the tilt of the Earth and other factors in the Northern Hemisphere. It is marked by the one day in the year with the longest amount of daylight, which is known to us as the summer solstice.
The summer solstice normally falls between June 19th and June 25th, and is the one day of the year with the most daylight north of the equatorial plane. The sun also reaches it's highest point in the sky at noon on this day, in (again) the NORTHERN hemisphere. So for us that live in the Northern Hemisphere, the June solstice is our summer solstice, while it is the shortest day and the winter solstice for our friends south of the equator.
The Northern-Hemispheric-June-Summer-Solstice (let's just stick with summer solstice or Midsummer) was celebrated as a feast day for thousands of years in Europe, North America, and Asia, and displayed our ancestors' amazing breadth of knowledge of the sky and astronomy. Before computers, advanced astronomical instruments, and the telescope, these ancient peoples could calculate when the longest day of their year came with amazing accuracy.
North American Indians celebrated the summer solstice with feasts and worship, and carved their stories in caves and on large medicine wheels, many of which still exist today. The Northern Europeans erected huge monolithic observatories, and held celebrations commemorating the fertility of the Earth on Midsummer. Ancient Chinese cultures celebrated the solstice with festivals that celebrated femininity and the yin force of nature.
The celebrations of Midsummer lasted for millennia in many parts of the world. Then, in the 4th Century CE, the feast day of St. John's was codified to occur right around the time of the summer solstice for various reasons. One: it was intended to replace the pagan rituals of Midsummer, that not only occurred during the solstices, but the equinoxes, and other times of astronomical significance. Second: it was marked as the halfway point on the year, six months before the celebrated birth of Jesus, on December 25th, and coincided with John the Baptist arriving before Jesus
The reason why this is a touchy subject for some is that they choose ignore the past, and may be part of the reason why the present days are the way they are. Pagan rituals and festivals surrounding important astronomical dates existed thousands of years before the quasi-monotheistic Abrahamic religions. Just because they are now tied to holy days and feast days in the modern extant forms of worship, does not mean we throw out their prehistoric origins. To remember the past is to have a more universal understanding of the present, and ultimately the future.
So Happy St John's Day, or Happy Midsummer, or Happy Summer Solstice to you! May you find comfort in the longest day (or shortest night) of the year, and take pleasure in the universal festivities of the life-giving star that we revolve around year after year.
PS - if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, your happy sun day is 6 months from now, sorry!
~~ FDTL ~~