Why Is ‘Midsummer’ at the Beginning of Summer?

Midsummer Eve bonfire
Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen Beach (1906), an artistic depiction of the traditional Danish bonfire.

Many people in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Midsummer’s Eve and Day. This ancient celebration is associated with the summer solstice this weekend.

It is especially important in the Scandinavian countries where the arrival of summer after a long winter is even more of a cause for celebration.

Midsummer was traditionally celebrated on June 24, which is the feast day of St. John the Baptist. But the holiday has its origin in a pre-Christian pagan solstice festival. The Catholic Church decided early on that rather than ban pagan festivals, they co-opted them by connecting them to Christian celebrations.

But why call it MID-summer when it occurs at the start of summer?  I learned the answer in a college Shakespeare class when I asked that question during our study of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This day marks the MIDpoint of the growing season being halfway between planting and harvest (April-September).

This day is one of four “quarter days” in the wheel of the year.

Feel free to do some feasting, dancing, and singing in this nice part of summer before the hot summer days arrive. June 24 is the traditional date of Midsummer Day, but it is often celebrated on the closest weekend to June 24 – so keep the party going until the 24th.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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