Old English midsumor, from mid + sumor “summer” (see summer (n.1)). Midsummer Day, as an English quarter-day, was June 24. Astronomically June 21, but traditionally reckoned in Europe on the night of June 23-24.
The 21st June is known as Midsummer. It is the time when the sun achieves its highest arc, at the midsummer solstice.
Solstice actually means standstill, so this will be the 3 days when the sun appears to rise at the same point on the horizon each day. After the midsummer standstill, from 21st to 24th June, the sun’s arc gets lower and lower in the sky every day until midwinter. This means there’s less and less light each day until we 25th December.
Every ancient religion had its own customs and traditions associated with Midsummer. These appear in the lore of Greece and Rome, the myths of the Norse, the Maya, the Aztecs, the Slavs, and the Celts, the writings of the ancient Egyptians, and the Old Testament of the Jews. Examples of these festivities can still be witnessed today. In places we may still see the fire festivals, the torchlight processions, the rolling of a sun wheel downhill, the casting of spells, divination, love magic, and the blessing of crops and animals with fire.
The cold, dark days of winter and blight are long gone, and the time of light and warmth, summer and growth, are here. We naturally feel more joyful and want to spend more time in the open air. Crops are planted and growing nicely, and the young animals have been born. Midsummer is indeed a natural time of celebration.
Here are some incredible images of the Solstice celebrations that have taken place at Stonehenge over the years. Happy Midsummer’s Day – we hope you make the most of it 😉