Either June 23 or 24 are usually considered as the most popular nights picked to be Midsummer Night’s Eve, considered the most dreamy and love drenched night of the year, although they most usually can range wider than that from year to year. This year the 23rd won out. However anyone who resides within in the Northern Hemisphere knows full well that summer has only officially just begun. Midsummer Night’s Eve is a holiday most celebrated in Europe and festivals are usually centered around Celtic fire festivals, where bonfires are lit all over the countryside. They represent the middle of summer, and the slow beginning of days starting to grow short once more as they progress to winter.
The importance of this night (and day) can be traced back to ancient times and thousands of years ago. That was when many of the world’s famous stone monuments and circles were erected. It is easy to say that the most well-known of them all is Stonehenge, where the Sun is said to come up over its heel stone, which is framed by the giant rocks on Midsummer morning.
The author of this article has often wondered why the night was given such a beautiful yet almost haunting name and just why William Shakespeare decided to put his famous comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on this particular night as well, which was most definitely not in the middle of the summer season.
The formation of the naming of the night as being midsummer hails from Old English and to begin with, it needs to be known that old Anglo-Saxon calendars only had two seasons on them which were summer and winter. There was no such thing as spring or fall. So if a person took an entire year and divided it in two halves, then Midsummer’s Day would have been located sometime near the middle of the dates listed in the month of June.
However back then, the June dates were most likely not days universally celebrated. Summer begin sometime in the middle of April on different old time Icelandic calendars while on the Anglo-Saxon calendar they believed summer arrived whenever the first late spring full moon appeared in the sky.
Even if the starting of midsummer was different for various people, the celebration of Saint John’s Eve (what it was first called) were uniform because they were dictated by the Catholic Church because Saint John was considered the patron saint of beekeepers.
It was found that this time was when the majority of spring flowers had blossomed along with the clover bursting out. People also discovered that beehives were dripping with honey. That was one reason that the full moon was nicknamed the Honey Moon for the month. It was also termed Strawberry Moon because strawberries were red and ripe on the vines at this time and everyone would go out to pick them.
The nickname “Honey Moon” eventually led to the word honeymoon and so the day also became associated with being a special time for lovers and also dreamers. This is why June is such a popular time for weddings even today. In fact more people get married in June than any other month of the year. This was even true back in olden times.
All these items combined helped to cause Shakespeare to decide to set his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream on this particular night, which also ended up gaining a reputation as being a special time of magic when fairies would leave their kingdom and play pranks on people in the human realm.
In the play Shakespeare tells of two different couples who amble out into a magical forest located just outside of Athens. The woods they enter are filled with all kinds of fairies who enjoy playing with the lovers’ thought and emotions to their own delight. One of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” is located in this play.
However with it being a comedy, he allowed events to eventually work out for everyone involved, unlike the pitiful creatures in most of his other plays. So with that, June 23 or 24 are usually considered the two nights to pick from as being Midsummer Night’s Eve, the most dreamy night of the year, even though for anyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere knows that summer has only officially just begun.
By Kimberly Ruble