Friday, June 21, 2013


Happy Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year!

Ever wonder why this is considered the FIRST day of summer? Well, because it's not. In the pre-Christian Gaelic and/or Celtic seasonal year, the Solstice in the middle of June was officially Midsummer—halfway between the first day of Summer on May 1, and the first day of Autumn, on August 1.

Seasonally, this makes a lot more sense than the arbitrary assignment of Christian holy days (not to mention modern American holidays) overlaid on the old pagan calendar. In the Gaelic/Celtic year, August, September and October were the fall harvest season. (They didn't use the same Romanesque names of the month, but they were still seasonally correct.)

November, December, and January were considered Winter, broken up by the Feast of Midwinter in mid-Decmber, where ceremonies of light, warmth, feasting, and revelry were held around the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night in the year. This was the season for the Roman Saturnalia, the Nordic Yule, and, much later, Christmas.

Spring began on February 1, and the planting season continued through March and April. The big spring festival, celebrating the return or resurrection of the Sun/Son, was held around mid-March and the Vernal Equinox.

I've always thought these seasonal divisions were right on, especially here in Santa Cruz, where we're likely to get an un-wintery heat wave in February, and most of the green of summer (the hills of UCSC, for instance) have dried to crispy brown by August.

Of course, all seasonal bets are off, if climate change is allowed to advance any further, threatening our planet with a permanent Endless Summer (and I don't mean that in the "Cowabunga!" sense).

But for now, old Sol is still a welcome sight! He's putting on quite a show as we speak, in a beautiful blue, cloudless sky, and he'll be onstage until well into the evening. My advice is to drop whatever else you're doing and get out there and enjoy it!

(Illustration: Medieval threshers outstanding in their field, under the Midsummer sun, from  Les Tres Riches Heures de Jean Duc du Barry (June).

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