Journey… Holidays Throughout the year.
June… Midsummer Eve
THL Celeste Alienor Courtenay De Montmorency
Midsummer eve has been celebrated since ancient times. One thing that I did not know and found out is that Midsummer Eve and St. John’s Eve are the same holiday. This holiday (apparent from it’s name) is celebrated the night before the summer solstice. Since this date can vary from year to year, the date of the holiday does also. This holiday is surrounded with tales of magic and fairies, and the reenactments of the story of St. George and the Dragon. There were parades and parties, dancing and feasting! There were also many rituals that took place on this day. Young people pick wildflowers and sleep with them under their pillows. They are hoping to dream of their future spouse. If you wanted to see the fairies, you would gather fern seed at the stroke of midnight and rub it on your eyelids. It seems that jumping through fires is not just the prerogative of the drunk person. Jumping through the fire on Midsummer eve is believed to bring you good luck. The streets were lined with fires. The bonfires were lit after dark and people held vigil a the fires until morning. The fires were thought to ward off evil spirits. Parades of people would carry lanterns and wander from fire to fire. Many times they were accompanied by “morris dancers and traditional players” (Carlson, 2004).
Some people held parties on Midsummer eve and the parties went all night long. The people were determined that they would stay awake through the entire night.
As with any day associated with merry making, there were decorations. Some sources say that people decorated their houses with St. John’s wort over their doors and other sources simply say that houses were decorated with greenery. The decorations were supposed to bring good luck to the people and to the livestock.
There are many more superstitions and myths associated with this day. You will be able to see them all if you want to look at the sources at the end of the article.
I found one source that would be of particular interest to the musicians. It appears that the current scale names of Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, were derived from the Breviary’s hymn sung on Midsummer eve- or St. John’s Eve. To avoid any errors, I have copied the words as they appear on the page . http://www.fisheaters.com/customstimeafterpentecost3.html
Ut queant laxis
Labii reatum, Sanc
The source notes that “Ut” was later changed to “Do” for easier pronunciation. They did also include the tune. I again must copy this. I do not have the ability to recreate it otherwise.
So that these your servants may, with all their voice, resound your marvelous exploits, clean the guilt from our stained lips, O Saint John.
There is mention of St. John’s Carols being sung on Midsummer eve, but I was not able to locate any.
I have mentioned but a few of the superstitions and celebrations for this holiday. There is so much more to this holiday and if you are interested, I hope you will review some of the sources I have listed. We are but a few days from this holiday, so I do hope that you will enjoy it! “How to” guides are included in some of the sources.