Festival facts: Midsummer Day

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By Louise Tellamteacher and freelance writer

Find out about the longest day of the year and why it is such an important date for some people

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Stonehenge

What is Midsummer Day

Midsummer Day is celebrated on 24 June each year, and is often the culmination of a series of festivities celebrating the summer solstice and the power and importance of the sun. The solstice is the time when the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator. This is celebrated as the longest day, when the summer has reached its height, and it is the turning point after which the days begin to get shorter. Although this is not strictly accurate, it remains the day of focus. In 2006 the sun will be at its highest in the northern hemisphere on 21 June at 12.26am.

The roots of the Midsummer celebrations are pagan. The word ‘pagan’ is derived from the Latin word ‘paganus’ meaning ‘country dweller’. For those who depended on the land, the sun governed their lives and this is reflected in their spirituality. Now, this reliance on the sun for life may be less obvious and celebrations are on a smaller scale.

The day is also known as the feast of St John the Baptist. This recalls the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1: 5-27 and 57- 66), which despite his importance for Christians, does not receive great attention in the Church.

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