The Swedes, so I am told, celebrate Midsummer with herring, potatoes schnapps and beer, taking the Summer Solstice off as a national holiday. This sounds eminently civilized to me - though I might pass on the herring - but a far cry from the fertility rites of their Viking Era ancestors where the Earth and whatever else was handy was impregnated to ensure a bountiful harvest. The Finns take the Bacchanalia a bit closer to its pagan roots, according to the Wikipedia entry for Midsummer, treating their Juhannus holiday as
"the year's most notable occasion for drunkenness and revelry...A great many people get very drunk and happy. It is also an occasion when many people look for a relationship (often a rather short one). The statistics for the number of people drowned and killed in accidents are morbidly counted every year while the number of assaults also peaks."
The feast of St. John also falls at this time and is celebrated in much of Europe, another melding of the pagan calender with Christian ritual. But for neo-pagans of a Celtic persuasion this is the day of all days to make a pilgrimage to Stonehenge, where this morning as the sun rose between the heel stone and the alter, the Globe and Mail reports
"About 24,000 people gathered at the stone circle in Wiltshire, in southwestern England. Dancers writhed to the sound of drums and whistles as floodlights coloured the ancient pillars shades of pink and purple. Couples snuggled under plastic sheets."
I once endured a Thanksgiving dinner in Namibia in the company of a group of American evangelical missionaries who explained to their African guests that it was quite alright to feast while others went without because "God loves a party." The Old Gods clearly did, and this is the time of year in the northern hemisphere when those old urges to hoist a glass and dance around a fire become nigh irresistible, even if that fire is the backyard barbecue and there are no admitted Druids in attendance.
I will celebrate the longest day of the year by getting out into some of it and away from my keyboard. Tonight my children and I will watch the will-o-wisp lights of the fireflies in the meadow at the bottom of the garden and imagine that faeries are dancing in circles of light.