Thursday, May 24, 2012

Litha: Midsummer Celebrations

Is it really halfway through May?  Wow!  Time flies fast.

So, as per my resolutions list, I have a celebration coming up:  Midsummer! For those of you who don't know about Midsummer, it's also called the Summer Solstice, or Litha (although in all honesty, I see more people call it Midsummer, and less people call it Litha, but whatever).  The thing I like about Midsummer is that unlike people celebrate it in many different areas of the world-- it's very secularized, but also a based on tradition, and a link to heritage.  And obviously, people may celebrate it in different ways. For instance, in Sweden one of the big activities for Midsummer is dancing around the Maypole (which, unlike its Beltane cousin, is covered in flowers and leaves as opposed to ribbons to be wrapped around it).


Dancing 'round the Maypole at the Estes Park Scandinavian Midsummer Festival in Colorado!


Midsummer Fireworks in Krakow, Poland (pic found here)

In some cities, Midsummer is celebrated over many days, sometimes a week or a fortnight. And sure, maybe those festivals are less about celebrating the solstice and more secular, it's still pretty cool that people use this time in the calendar to basically have massive parties, such as the Cork Midsummer Festival in Ireland, or the Midsummer festival in Krakow which ends in fireworks and has Polish Pop bands rocking out on the riverbanks.



However, for some there are spiritual reasons for celebrating this holiday, and that includes a big chunk of the Pagan community (not all-- remember, no two pagans practice the same way).  Thus, we have Litha.  Litha (or the Summer Solstice) is one of the four Quarter Days in the Wheel of the Year, and for some who identify as Pagan or Wiccan it is considered a "lesser Sabbat" or one of the "Low Holidays".  I take issue with this nomenclature because I feel like the Solstices and Equinoxes are the most nature-based of all the Sabbats.  I mean, they are the longest day of the year, the longest night of the year, and the two times each year the there is a balance in day and night.  Those days are indicators of where we are in the seasonal cycle!  How is a "lesser Sabbat"?  I feel like they keep the Wheel going.  But whatevs... Anyway, Litha celebrates the the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, and it varies year to year (between June 20th and June 22th).



So, what is Litha all about? That depends on who you ask. As evidenced by the name, for many the Summer Solstice is the marking of the middle of summer.  However, according to many American calendars (including my own) the solstice is the first day of summer?  How is this so?  Well, for those who go by the Wheel of the Year, Beltane (May 1st) is the first day of summer, and Litha, as the longest day, is considered the middle.  Think of it this way-- after the Summer Solstice, the days become increasingly shorter and shorter.  How can the summer be just beginning if the length of light is decreasing?  Just some food for thought for those of you who consider the solstice the first day of summer.  Anyway, as the longest day of light, it's a symbol of the strength of the sun, who in conjunction with the earth create the harvest which provides the earth's creatures with sustenance.  It is a celebration of the strength of the gods, and maybe a little bit of sympathetic magic to ensure a bountiful harvest come Lughnasadh.

I feel like this is one of the easiest Sabbats to celebrate because of its party atmosphere.  I mean, people are already out later because the sun is setting later, and it's summertime!  Everyone is going out and having fun, swimming in the river, throwing barbecue parties, going to the park!

So, what do you all think?  How would you celebrate the Solstice, or how would you celebrate summer in general?  Let me know.






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