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midsummer day and midsummer night

midsummer day and midsummer night, names given to the feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24) and the preceding night (St. John's Eve, June 23). Because midsummer is about the time of the solstice, it has been associated with solar ceremonies since long before Christianity. Relics of such ceremonies are the bright bonfires and the merrymaking of midsummer night. Formerly it was considered the one night of the year when supernatural beings were about. The importance of this night to love and lovers is undoubtedly a survival of fertility rites. Shakespeare and Mendelssohn are among the masters who have used the festival as a subject for a major work.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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