Some people wonder what the difference is between the solstice and Midsummer’s Day. Summer solstice is on June 21st and is the longest day of the year. Midsummer’s Day is fixed on June 24th, which is St. John’s Day or St. John’s Tide Day. This day is said to be the day of birth of John the Baptist.
In the book, “Waldorf Education: A Family Guide,” Karen Rivers writes, “John the Baptist represents man at the center of history, devoted to what is beyond himself, to the revelation of the spirit brought by Christ. His summons was to turn inward, to search within toward a confrontation with oneself.” St. John’s Day is a fitting time to re-assess and re-balance ourselves in this spirit.
Traditionally, a fire was lit at sunset on the eve of St. John’s Tide Day. The firewood was collected for days beforehand, and prayers and blessings were spoken as the fire was lit. There are also other traditions associated with the fire, including walking around the fire three times and throwing a pebble into the center of the fire with a special prayer, and also jumping over the embers of the fire as it died to get new endeavors off to a good start or to rid themselves of their own weaknesses and inadequacies. The book “Celebrating Irish Festivals” remarks that sometimes the embers of the fire were carried about as a smoldering torch to smoke-cleanse areas or even fields.
St. John’s Day is also known as a wonderful time to collect herbs. Herbs such as elderflowers, St. John’s Wort and many others may be ready at this time in your area. With small children, one can make the eve of St. John’s Day the time to leave out small treats for the fairies in the garden or to build fairy houses.
According to the book, “All Year Round”, Midsummer Day is an excellent day to eat outside, to cook food over an open fire, use edible flowers as part of the meal. Nature tables at this time of the year often include bees, gold spirals, and hanging suns. Some people celebrate by hanging a bunch of coneflowers on their front door, leave a light on all night long, or bring in sunflowers for a corner of the room.
Here are some resources for this lovely festival:
This is link to the wonderful Calendar of the Soul verses for this lovely day:
Here is wonderful article covering many of the major festivals from our friends at the North London Steiner School (if you scroll to the bottom of this article there is a section on St. John’s Tide Day):
Here is a link to some festival books at Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop, and there is a lecture by Steiner regarding this festival included:
There is also this book by Charles Kovacs:
Here is a more general link to the Wiki entry on Midsummer’s Eve and Day:
The Wynstones Press “Summer” book also has many songs, verses and stories appropriate for this festival.
Hope that helps those of you planning festivities this month!