Monday, June 21, 2010

MIDSUMMER!

Today is what's called Midsummer or the Summer Solstice or the First Day of Summer.  I don't know how it can be both the middle of summer and the first of summer at the same time.  Frankly, I think it's very confusing, and I am not going to try to explain it.  I am just telling you what I learned while doing my research.

Maybe you remember when I told you all about the Winter Solstice.  Well, the Summer Solstice is the opposite of that because now the top part of the earth is leaning toward the sun, and this means that it's hot outside and also that there is more daylight, so you can mow your grass at 8 p.m. and still mostly see what you are doing.

In some countries, the Summer Solstice is a really big deal, like especially in Scandinavia and other places in Europe.  In some of these countries, Midsummer is actually a Big Official Holiday where everybody gets to stay home from work and celebrate.  And the main ways that people celebrate are by building bonfires and by dancing around maypoles and by drinking.

In Sweden, for example, people decorate their houses with flowers and leaves and stuff, and they also decorate a maypole.  Of course, it's kind of weird to call it a "may" pole in June, so another name for it is "midsummer pole."    Here's a painting that was made by a Swedish artist named Anders Zorn in 1897, and it shows people dancing to celebrate Midsummer.

And here are some modern Swedish people dancing around a midsummer pole.

Another place where Midsummer is a big deal is in England, like especially in Cornwall, which is that little pointy part that sticks out at the bottom left.  People like to make bonfires there on top of hills or where there are some old castle ruins.

Also there's this place called Stonehenge, where people put a whole bunch of humongous rocks in a circle thousands and thousands of years ago, and now nobody remembers why the rocks were put there.  But it may have something to do with figuring out when it's the solstice, so people go there and have lots of parties and stuff.

The real solstice is on June 21, but a lot of Midsummer celebrations are on June 23 and 24.  The reason for this is because the solstice was a very ancient pagan festival, and it had to do with scaring away all the evil spirits and also with making all the crops grow.  But when Christianity came to Europe, the solstice got made into more of a celebration of St. John the Baptist, who was supposedly born on June 24.  So the pagan stuff and the religious stuff got kind of mixed up together, and that's why not everybody has parties on the exact same day.

Anyway, for dogs and other animals with fur, what the summer solstice means is that it's time to get busy shedding your old winter coat and growing in your new one.  And this is because before you know it, cold weather will be here again, and you will want a nice, thick coat to keep you warm!

3 comments:

  1. Hello there,

    I would say Midsummer is to celebrate the longest days of the year. Up north, above the polar cirle, the sun doesn't set at all. The sun start raising around 2am in the mid parts of Sweden and after some dancing, eating, drinking and general partying a la Swedish style you will not even notice the slight darkness passing and just cary on through in to the next day. Traditionally we eat herring and salmon, and with herring comes snaps to help with the digestion. Before every snaps there is a song. If you ever get the change to visit Sweden for midsummer (the friday around 24/6)try to go to a village in Dalarna for the authentic traditions. Going to Stockholm or any other bigger city is somewhat of a chock. The city is virtually empty. Everyone is in their summer house celebrating and having the weekend off.

    See you later
    Sara the Swede

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  2. Dear Sara,
    Thank you for writing a comment to tell me all about Midsummer in Sweden. I think I would like to go there and eat the salmon and herring. That would be really yummy for a little dog like me! All those long days with lots of sunshine sound very good right now, in the middle of winter!
    Your friend,
    Piper

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