The longest day of the year is a day to be wary of evil spirits!
The seasons have always been dictated by plantings and harvests. Bonfires were built to boost the sun’s energy and to ward off any demonic spirits. Flowers and herbs were worn to ward off evil spirits and St. John’s Wort is thought to be very powerful. The name of the herb is attributed to John the Baptist whose birthday is celebrated around the summer solstice.
When Christianity spread through northern Europe, pagan customs and Christians beliefs were combined. This affected the Celtic Calendar. There are four quarter days for the four seasons, but the Celts had four Cross-Quarter days that are in the middle of the season. For example, February 1 was considered the first day of spring (not March 21) and Christians called this day Candlemas. I wrote about Candlemas in a previous post.
Lady Day was March 25 (spring equinox) and was the day for hiring men to plant. The church called this the Feast of Angel Gabriel in celebrating Gabriel’s visit to Mary and announcing she’d be the mother of the long awaited messiah.
The summer solstice (Midsummer Day) marks the midpoint of the growing season. Bonfires are still lit today in some communities to ward off evil spirits while St. John’s Day is celebrated with festivals and prayer. The importance of having a good crop to harvest has not changed. It was also a time for weddings. Couples met on May 1 which was celebrated because it was halfway between the spring and summer solstice. They then married on Midsummer Day. The couple had six weeks to get to know each other!
August 1 is the halfway point between the summer and fall equinox and was called Loaf Mass because it celebrated the harvest of wheat. Farmers took the first loaf of bread to be blessed by the priest and then broke the loaf into four pieces. The pieces were placed in the four corners of the barn to protect the wheat that was stored there. Festivals continue to be held to this day.
The fall equinox is known as Michaelmas and it is the beginning of harvest. The angel Michael is celebrated and festivals are held. It also was the time for elections because it was a time when people gathered.
October 31 was Samhain and many believe this was the Celtic new year, but I also read many believe February 1 was their new year. Meat was slaughtered at this time for their winter supply and of course bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. Fortune tellers predicted what the new year would hold for the people.
The year ends with Christmas and the winter solstice. Since today is hot and humid, I’m thinking the cold of December sounds pretty nice. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Cross-Quarter Days.