Midsommar’s Eve tomorrow and back to paganism

The summer solstice (June solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere, based on the actual movement of the Earth around the Sun falls this year on Sunday, 21 June 2015, 18:39 CEST.

Where we live the Sun will rise at 0346 and set at 2211 and the forecast is for an overcast, but dry, day and a maximum expected temperature of 17ºC. (Not exactly high summer weather).

Christianity did not like these “natural” feasts and festivals which had no connection to Divine happenings. All “pagan” and other natural feast days were gradually hijacked by the Church, and mid-summer was taken over by the Church to be the 24th of June as being the nativity (birthday) of John the Baptist. This was close enough to the pagan celebrations (in mid-June in medieval times) for the start of summer, for the feast to be appropriated by the Church. (Just as Christmas was used as the vehicle to hijack the birthday of the Sun). The text in Luke 1:36 – 56,57, puts this day 6 months before Christmas. But counting backwards from Christmas in the Roman way brings us to 24th June rather than the 25th.

Christmas was “the eighth day before the Kalends of January” (Octavo Kalendas Januarii). Consequently, Saint John’s Nativity was put on the “eighth day before the Kalends of July.” However, since June has only thirty days the feast falls on June 24.

Sweden reverts to paganism for Midsommarsafton (Mid-summer’s Eve) and for Midsommar (Mid-summer). But modern pragmatism and the need to have a national holiday has led to Midsommar always being celebrated on the Saturday lying between 20th and 26th June and this allows the preceding Friday to be the extra holiday for Midsommarsafton. This year Saturday is the 20th and tomorrow, Friday 19th, is the Midsommarsafton holiday.

However the solstice does not actually arrive till Sunday.

Midsommar is strawberries, flowers, spiced schnapps, pickled herring, boiled potatoes, cold beer and much carousing.  (I’ll take the strawberries and the cream and the schnapps but the herrings and the potatoes leave me cold). It used to be in Sweden that births peaked clearly in March following the midsommar festivities and drunken goings-on. But nowadays there is a sustained plateau which lasts from March till September with hospitals under pressure in July. (But the July pressure is mainly because everybody is on semester and much of Sweden is closed). That suggests that carousing begins in Spring and carries on till the end of the semester month.

I observe that if there is any national religion left in modern Sweden, it is no longer the Swedish Church, but is a return to pagan traditions and the worship of Midsommar followed by the month of semester. In fact the national religion is as close to Sun worship as any ancient civilisation may have had. And since I don’t have the appropriate cold-weather genes, my firm belief in Sol Invictus is reawakened every spring.


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