Midsummer Celebrated in Many Cultures Worldwide
Midsummer or summer solstice is celebrated in many cultures as the longest day of the year. Especially in the northern hemisphere, from Finland to Spain, it is often associated with bonfires. In many European countries people gather around bonfires, often fed with old and unwanted wooden furniture, broken boats and some people jump over the fire while making wishes.
Though 24th June is technically the longest day, 21st June is celebrated in most countries since the Gregorian calendar reform. But neo-pagans celebrate summer solstice on June 24th along with most European folk festivals.
As with many other pagan festivals, midsummer has been Christianized in most Western countries. In England it has become “St. John’s Eve”, “St John’s Day” or feast of John the Baptist in many countries, in Russia it is Ivan Kupala Day, in Poland it is Noc Kupały or Noc Świętojańska.
Modern Wiccan Version of Midsummer
Like the ancient Celts, the modern Wiccans believe that at Litha or the Feast of the Faeries at twilight in midsummer, the portals between the worlds open and faeries may enter our world. Humans who welcome them are blessed with joy and wisdom. The modern Druids call midsummer Alban Hefin while the ancient druids called it “Alban Heruin” or "Light of the Shore".
There is evidence of Midsummer festivals in ancient cultures:
- in Newgrange in Ireland from around 3000 BC
- among the Essenes, a Jewish sect from 1st century A.D.
- the ancient Hopi and the Nachez people in the Americas
- the Chinese. For the Chinese the summer solstice ceremony celebrates the earth, the feminine yin force. It complemented the winter solstice, which celebrates the heavens, masculinity and yang forces.
- Even the peoples of North Africa, particularly in Morocco and Algeria, especially the Berbers also celebrate midsummer.
Midsummer or Juhannus is the Most Important Festival in Finland
In Finland, midsummer or Juhannus is the main festival of the year when cities are virtually empty as people go to their countryside cottages. People gather around the kokko or bonfires and watch the fire.
Juhannus is a popular day for weddings as also unfortunately excessive drinking, drowning and accident figures (driving a car and drowning) are the highest in the year. In earlier days, maidens went naked to the meadows the night before to collect seven different wild flowers, which they placed under their pillows so that they then dreamt of the man who would become their husband.