Midsummer. Litha. St. John’s Day. Summer Solstice. It’s known by many names and celebrated by many traditions and religions. Whatever you call it and however you celebrate Midsummer, it marks the beginning of summer. Midsummer marks the summer solstice, the time when the Earth’s rotational axis is most inclined towards the Sun. This means long summer days, and short summer nights – the longest day being on Midsummer which occurs every year around June 21st.
Modern pagans (neopagans, Wiccans, Heathens, and witches) celebrate Litha (Midsummer, Summer Solstice) in a similar way to the historic pagan traditions. Bonfires serve as the main point of many celebrations. It is recognized as the longest day of the year and marks the height of the Sun God’s power, the pregnancy, and fertility of the Mother Goddess, the triumph of light over darkness, and growth and fertility.
Traditionally in many belief systems, Midsummer has been celebrated with bonfires (and often dancing around them). Bonfires represent the sun and offered protection against the evil spirits said to roam this night as the sun once again started it southward turns. Bonfires are still a part of modern Midsummer or Litha celebrations for Pagans, Neopagans, and modern celebrations of Scandinavian countries including Sweden.
Midsömmer in Sweden
Midsömmer is one of the biggest holidays in Sweden. Since my husband’s side of the family is of Swedish decent it has become part of our own family traditions as well. The entire country of Sweden essentially shuts down and everyone goes to the countryside to celebrate with food, friends, family, drinking, dancing, and of course a May Pole. Popular seasonal dishes include crayfish, sandwich cake, potatoes with dill, and schnapps. Your learning would not be complete without watching this introductory educational video kindly provided by Sweden.
St. John’s Day
St. John’s Day marks the day of the death of St. John the Baptist in Christian beliefs. However, this holiday borrows many beliefs and customs from it’s pagan predecessors. It wasn’t celebrated until the 13th century. St. John’s Day occurs on June 24th, with St. John’s Eve the night before on the 23rd.
The following are common decorations, associations, foods, and herbs associated with Midsummer. Various traditions have their own correspondences so they will vary based on tradition and local customs.
Food & Drink:
- Fresh, seasonal veggies & fruits
- Edible flowers
- Yellow fruits & veggies (such as squashes)
- Chicken, Pork
Lore note: Herbs gathered on Midsummer or Midsummer Eve are very powerful.
- Summer birds (such as robins)
- Mythical creatures, especially Fae/Faeries
Midsummer is a wonderful time of the year. It’s the perfect time to enjoy the longest day and shortest night of the year with friends & family. No matter which tradition you follow, or none at all, there’s no better time for a bonfire with those who matter most.