Today marks the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Up North, where I live, the sky will still be light close to midnight. I love this time of year, and I especially love this day, but it’s always tempered with a mix of sadness, because tomorrow the cycle reverses and the days will begin to grow shorter.
Solstice celebrations started with the Pagans, and then the Christians got into the act with St. John’s Day. In Finland it’s called Juhannus and it’s one of their major holidays. There they make huge bonfires out of any cast-off wood, including old boats, and the flames reach incredible heights.
In my earliest memories, I can see huge Juhannus bonfires (kokko) up and down a Lake Superior beach where the Finns, including my aunt and uncle, had summer camps. Singing and drinking went on far into the night, and we kids opened the windows to our room on the upper floor and fell asleep to the sounds of three-part harmonizing as our parents and their camp friends pulled out their entire repertoire and sang, slowly, sweetly, a capella.
They’re all gone now, all those people so full of life and promise, but the memories live on. Will there be bonfires on that beach on this night, and people gathered around singing and celebrating the longest day, the start of summer, the hope of new life springing from the earth? Oh, I hope so. . .