Happy American Midsummer!

July 4th, 2008

All human societies have a relatively standard set of holidays that mark the passage of time. The solstices and equinoxes are the primary ones marked, but there are a few others. The interesting thing is that as different societies developed, the dates and methods of observation developed differently.

For example, in the United States, July 4 is treated as our midsummer holiday. It is by far the biggest holiday in the summer and is positioned nearly in the middle of the time we tend to observe the summer season. The summer season itself is socially marked as the period between Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) to Labor Day (the first Monday in September). The fact that our Independence Day lands nearly in the middle gave good reason to treat it as our midsummer.

The activities that take place are different than in other countries, such as the European Midsummer. The spirit is very similar, though. It is a joyous holiday that celebrates the summer and uses a lot of fire (in the form of fireworks and BBQ grills in the U.S., bonfires in Europe).

Compare this with the joyous fire celebrations our ancestors held to mark the midsummer around the time of the solstice. The religious overtones have been removed from the secular holiday celebration, but the same spirit is present.

The inherent fluidity of time encourages humans to hold such celebrations and holidays at specific times to help mark it. For example, does it really feel like the lazy days of summer until after July 4? Does it really feel like the cold of winter until after Christmas, the most common current incarnation of the winter solstice holiday?

Our American society continues to diminish the value of celebration and holidays. More people work during holidays and others simply treat it as a regular, though longer, weekend. They have come to see celebration as unnecessary and even tedious. They find it preferable to just stay home and watch television than get out and do something with others.

Instead, I think we need to work to celebrate holidays more. Make them special in some way. If your not interested in parades and fireworks, visit with friends or family and use the joy to become closer. The community-organized parades and fireworks are great for getting to know others in the community better. Have a special meal. Thank the Gods for your blessings through an expression of joy, such as dance or song.

As American Pagans, we can think of it as having two midsummer celebrations. One at Litha and one on Independence Day. We can focus more on our spiritual ties and our spiritual community at the Litha celebration. Then use the Independence Day celebrations for growing our ties to the community we live in, the community of our extended family or the community of our friends. For some, the spiritual and the secular communities may overlap.

In general, holidays are days to get out of the shell of your normal routines, your house and the humdrum of everyday life. It is a time to step back and look on your life and see how it is going so far and what adjustments you would like to make. Then, once the holiday is over and it’s time to return to regular life, implement those adjustments.

Even if your holiday celebrations don’t go as planned, such as can happen if you have children, don’t get stressed about it. Deal with the situations as they come up, not worrying about what the day is “supposed” to be like. Remember that the holiday isn’t about doing certain things at certain times and in certain ways. It’s about getting together with others and celebrating the joy of life and the joy of the specific holiday, in this case the fire of summer.

So, whatever you are doing on this holiday (if you are in the U.S.), I hope it brings you great joy that will help you through the dog days yet to come.


2 Responses to “Happy American Midsummer!”

  1. Annette Says:

    You know, until I walked this path I really didn’t appreciate holidays all that much… But now each passing season has its own Big Day — or even more than one Big Day to celebrate, and I love really taking part in the Turning of the Wheel. For me, this year, July 4th was a super celebration of Fire energy, and we had a few very “fired up” children here, running around on the lawn and yelling with joy. Now THAT’S midsummer! Whooo! 🙂 Blessings!

  2. Morninghawk Says:

    I’m glad you had a joyful holiday. I think that having children running around and having fun is an essential part of any holiday celebration, as they add a unique energy to the festivities.

    Bright blessings to you and thanks for the comment.

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