Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Not Midsummer's Day

A poem by Hedgie, (June 18th) sent me off thinking (like a coffee percolator - it takes me a while).

I always thought that Midsummer's day was the same as the longest day of the year, which in the Northern Hemisphere is today: unlike the Southern Hemisphere (hi CB) who enjoy the shortest day of midwinter (do you guys enjoy some sort of feast to break things up?).

I digress - St John's Eve - is the evening before Midsummer's day and according to research is the 23rd of June.

Confused yet? It doesn't take much with me.

The other thing is that it reminds me of The Eve of St Agnes, by Keats which again according to research is 21st January. Almost but not quite the opposite end of the calendar spectrum and the female to the male, the yin to the yang etcetera, etcetera!

So anyway, today is just the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere - not Midsummer's day.

So don't go visiting any weird hills, gyrating and celebrating just yet!


bb said...

Not Midsummer's day but it is, err was, (writing this on the 22nd!) Summer Solstice. Though all this significance pales against the misery that was the windiest day of the year, that shook many a petal down too early!

Cailleach said...

Doh! bb - in my longwinded way of putting things, I forgot that 'longest day of the year' is just that!

Very windy here too - you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was Autumn yesterday

Hedgie said...

"Summer Solstice"

Who's to tell the night heron
This night merits his observation
Or inform the carpenter bee
Of the day's singularity?

Only the membrane in the tissue
Of the algae or the eye
Steeped in ancestral memory
Retentive of stimuli

Has that calendrical
Instinct by which in France
On this day children strew the road with petals
Men burn a paper goat the women dance
--Daniel Hoffman

chiefbiscuit said...

Hi - Yes it was the shortest day yesterday and the hills were sheets of glass - icy! Here is one of the things we are doing to celebrate ...

The MidWinter Carnival will take place on Saturday 24th June, setting the Octagon alight with glowing lanterns, music and dance. Come along at 5pm to try out the winter warming food stalls, and wait for the 6pm bell toll to kick the event into action.

The procession will be led by The Empress, a wild stilt performer who has returned to Dunedin especially for this event, with five years experience in Amsterdam as a street performer. She will be followed by frost creatures on stilts and spectacular giant lanterns.

The public have already made dozens of lanterns at workshops over the past three weekends. They’re now ready and waiting for the big night, and will make up the beautiful Procession of Light that flows round the Octagon. This year the public have really come through with a record number of lanterns being created, topping previous years’ figures of two hundred plus. Families, children, students and party-goers will fill the Octagon on the night, creating the magical atmosphere and spectacular visuals that make up a truly unique event.

Local musicians Karensa Stephens and Sam Cummings have created an original soundtrack to accompany the mystical procession, creating the atmospheric sounds to fire the winter chill. A fireworks display will signal the end of the procession and make way for live music by Koile, producing big reggae beats to dance to into the night.

Plus we have a polar plunge (I will blog about that on Monday.)
Often we have Christmas Dinners around the 25th June so we can experience a taste of a wintry Christmas meal just like the northern hemispherians do!

Cailleach said...

Hedgie - thanks for that: Hoffman is the new US PL, so that poem seems timely, in a lot of senses! He is very good at compact imagery and his subtle hinting towards circadian rhythms - ooh!

CB - that sounds like a great festival: a procession of light - almost Scandinavian. And the polar plunge - there is a similar tradition in Ireland on St Stephen's day: a lot of people do it for charity (although our waters might be cold, you couldn't say that they are polar). And no mid-winter fest would be complete without some calorific intake -it's what keeps us warm until spring :¬)

Cailleach said...

Okay, totally losing it!
Hoffman, I read about a few days ago on Books Inq and am confusing him with Donald Hall
They have the same initials - but there the similarity ends! Sheesh...

Catherine said...

Well, now I am envious of Chiefbiscuit. It is not really tradition in New Zealand to celebrate midwinter, as we have brought our festivals from the Northern hemisphere and they are all upside down. In Queenstown which is a very touristy winter sports area they have a festival around July. But in Christchurch there is nothing, really, unless we organise our own midwinter dinners.
Matariki is the Maori New Year. It falls on the first sighting of the rising of the Pleiades (seven sisters or Matariki) after the New Moon in midwinter. This year I believe it is the 27th June. There is a bit of a push on to start celebrating it again.

Cailleach said...

Hey Catherine, thanks for that titbit on Matariki!

On looking it up I found the meaning to be 'little eyes' or 'eyes of God.' Another piece of information to play around with! Brilliant!