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Midsummer's Day

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  • Midsummer's Day

    Midsummers Day

    Tomorrow is the first day of Summer. But if Summer starts on 21st June and finishes on 20th September why is 24th June called Midsummers day when summer has only just started?

    The answer lies in the way summer used to be calculated.

    In the Middle Ages the seasonal and ecclesial calendars were intertwined and the year was not tidily divided into four equal seasons.

    Winter started with Michaelmas on 29th September (the feast of the Archangel Michael) and lasted until Christmas. This was a season for sowing wheat and rye (known as winter seed).

    The twelve days of Christmas were a time for feasting and celebration. No farm work was done apart from the essentials of feeding the animals.

    Epiphany (6th January) to Holy Week of Easter was spring time. The day after Epiphany was called Distaff Day by the women, the day when spinning commenced after Christmas. The first Monday after Epiphany was called Plough Monday by the men, the day when ploughing began.

    From Hocktide, the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter until Lammas, the first of August, was Summer.

    Then August and September (up to 29th) were Autumn.

    As Easter was no a fixed date the exact midsummer could not be fixed but the feast of the Nativity St. John the Baptist, an important feast in the Church’s year, was reckoned as roughly the middle and was thus reckoned as Midsummer.

    Note: The Nativity of St John the Baptist was listed by the Council of Agde in 506 as one of that region's principal festivals. So it is a very ancient festival.
    Last edited by Bede; 06-20-2015, 02:38 AM.

  • #2
    Nativity (Birth) of John the Baptist

    Today (24th June) is the Feast Day of the Birth of John the Baptist. As noted above this has been an important feast in the life of the Church from early times.

    It also highlights another interesting feature of ancient dating. The actual date is fixed relative to the date we celebrate the birth of Christ – 25th December. Nine months before that on 25th March we celebrate the Annunciation, when Christ was conceived in the womb of Mary. At that point we are informed, Elizabeth was in her sixth month. (Lk 1:26 & 36). Of course we do not know exactly how long Mary was pregnant or exactly what in her sixth month means timewise. But the date for John’s birth is reckoned as 3 months after the Annunciation and 6 months before Christ’s birth – which should therefore be 25th June. But it isn’t! It’s the 24th!

    This is because the dating was done in Roman times and the Romans did not count from the beginning of the month as we do. They had three fixed points in the month, the Calends (1st of the month), the Nones (5th or 7th depending on the month) and the Ides (13th or 15th depending on the month). Dates were calculated back from the next fixed point. The 25th December is the octave (8 days) before the Calends of January. The 25th March is the octave before the Calends of April. However as June has only 30 days, the octave of the Calends of July is 24th not 25th of June.
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